Water allotment program suspended

SOLANA BEACH — Thanks to Mother Nature, customer cooperation and possible changes in state-mandated water use cutbacks the Santa Fe Irrigation District voted Jan. 21 to suspend its water allocation program and the associated financial penalties as of Feb. 1.

The district is still required to cumulatively meet state-ordered reductions but individual properties no longer have a specific allocation.

However, customers are still asked to continue conservation efforts as level three water shortage conditions with mandatory reductions and fines remain in place to help the district meet the state-mandated cutbacks.

The restrictions include limiting landscape watering to two days a week between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Odd-numbered houses can water on Sunday and Thursday, even-numbered houses on Wednesday and Saturday and all others on Monday and Friday.

Sprinkling is limited to 10 minutes per station per day.

According to a press release, SFID customers have successfully established a pattern of generally meeting the allocations by reducing cumulative water use by 35 percent.

The district was required to reduce water use by 36 percent beginning this past June. At about that time it implemented the allocation program.

Based on 2013 data customers were allowed to use a specified amount of water for indoor necessities and all usage above the allotment had to be reduced by 45 percent.

Those who went above the allowance were fined.

Efficiency changes such as turf removal, landscape makeovers and the installation of more efficient sprinkler systems contributed to permanently reduced water use.

During a presentation at the Jan. 13 Solana Beach City Council meeting SFID District General Manager Mike Bardin said those modifications helped bring the district close to its mandated reductions. He praised residents for their efforts.

“If you would have asked me last year that that could happen I was a naysayer,” he said. “That’s an extraordinary amount of conservation that I really personally didn’t think was possible.

“I want to thank everyone for doing their part,” he added. “It’s been difficult on our customers.”

Increased conservation outreach and maintenance of the level three reductions should be adequate to meet the required cutbacks.

The district will step up outreach on water conservation to maintain the already high level of customer awareness.

“Given the remarkable response of customers to date, it is reasonable to expect that this level of conservation will continue,” the press release stated.

Meanwhile the district may get some relief from state cutbacks. It has been active in a countywide effort led by the San Diego County Water Authority to obtain reasonable relief from the mandatory state water use cutbacks.

The region has made massive investments in developing new regional water supplies and improving conservation over the past decade.

Many in the region say those efforts, including the recent opening of Carlsbad’s desalination plant, have not been adequately recognized under the state’s emergency conservation regulations.

Recent state proposals to modify regulations are helpful but do not appropriately acknowledge the investment in drought-resilient supplies that the region has made, according to the press release.

SFID will provide updates on its evaluation of new water supply opportunities, including capturing additional storm-water flows into Lake Hodges this winter, several recycled water projects and a potential long-term potable reuse project.

“Solana Beach residents have been exemplary in their response to the statewide drought but have been subject to more restrictive regulations than other San Diego County residents,” Mayor Dave Zito said in response to the allocation suspension.

“The recent change by the Santa Fe Irrigation District more fairly treats our residents as it brings their policies much closer in line with the other regional water agencies,” he added. “This action by SFID definitely doesn’t change our need to continue with conservation but does recognize the significant achievements to date.”

“I think the process is working,” said resident Roger Boyd, who never exceeded his allotment. “What Gov. Brown did has played out and now the rules are changing and are based on a factual understanding.”

Other residents, upset with the state action, have been circulation a petition in an effort to get local water agencies to sue the state for failing to recognize regional conservation efforts.

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