Carlsbad, Escondido see effective, mixed results saving water in 2015

REGION — Water districts in Carlsbad and Escondido saw effective, yet, mixed results in 2015.

Despite only meeting its goal once in six months, the Carlsbad Municipal Water District is happy with its residents and businesses in conserving water.

In Escondido, residents on the city supply (the other district is Rincon del Diablo Water) surpassed the 20 percent mandate by the state with a cumulative total of more than 30 percent, according to Escondido Director of Utilities Chris McKinney.

Mario Remillard, conservation coordinator for CMWD, said locals have put in great efforts to reduce water consumption after Gov. Jerry Brown’s state mandate went into effect in June.

Although Carlsbad only reached its required 28 percent goal once, Remillard said the city has not been fined by the state since water credits were calculated in accordance with the mandate. Nevertheless, Remillard said the city averages between 26 to 27 percent reductions per month.

McKinney said Escondido users tallied more than 40 percent in cuts in “some months,” although the city missed its goal in November with a total of 16 percent.

“Overall … residents have doing as much as they can to help the cause,” Remillard said. “We saw people removing turf as soon as the mandates (were levied). That’s been the number one thing besides people reducing their outside watering.”

Remillard said the district noticed immediate reaction and implementation of conservation measures by residents and businesses once the mandate began. Drought tolerant landscaping, drip and other drought sensitive irrigation systems and home use shot down dramatically, he added.

McKinney said Escondido residents began making preparations last spring when the state engaged in a media campaign detailing the historical drought.

“The drought became a big news story in probably February or March of last year,” he explained. “It’s really when that media campaign started that our water conservation staff noticed the … concern in the public. Of course, the emergency regulations kind of drove it home that it’s more than an option.”

In addition, only Carlsbad four businesses have been fined since the mandates took affect, and those were given warnings before the city took action. Remillard said the district and city prefers outreach and education to fining residents and businesses.

“We’ve not been fined,” Remillard said of the city. “We been trying to avoid that by showing our due diligence. Just being very active when in comes to helping people follow the drought restriction rules.”

The biggest hurdle for 2016, meanwhile, is lobby efforts by the city and other regional entities in altering the California Department of Water Resources calculation and mandates for monthly reductions, both men explained.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall and the City Council have railed against the current process, although they agree measures must be taken. Hall said last year he hopes the state will listen to cities across the state and use methods specialized to location rather than broad cuts for all.

Remillard, meanwhile, said the city currently receives a 4 percent credit each month, thus avoiding being fined. However, he said if the state removed the 4 percent cap threshold, Carlsbad could reach 20 percent in credits per month due numerous factors.

Those include once-per-week watering, climate and growth adjustments and adding to the water supply with the desalination plant. In addition, Remillard said lobbying would also include efforts to incorporate El Niño storms and snowpack across the state into the equation.

McKinney, who echoed Remillard’s sentiments about credits, took it a step further saying he has not come across a district in the county who isn’t lobbying for reform with the state’s process. Fortunately, he added, state regulators are taking the comments from water districts, cities and the county seriously.

The mandates vary from 8 to 36 percent across the state, which McKinney said is another factor in driving for change.

“That was based on what their historic water use was,” he added. “We all have concerns about how the state looks at water conservation as a one-size fits all approach. California is a large state, many different climates, many different water supplies.”

However, the timeline for the state to act may not come as quickly as the CMWD hopes as Brown extended the required cuts through October. Remillard, though, said adjustments to the mandate might come Feb. 29, which was the original deadline for mandate.

“The state has offered to reduce our standard by following certain criteria, with a cap of four percent,” Remillard said. “The lowest we can go at this point is 24 percent. We would like to see no cap and see further adjustment for our desalinated water that we brining into the city.”

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