New approach is approved for water conservation

REGION — The California State Water Resources Control Board approved May 18 a new approach to water conservation.

A localized “stress test” mandates urban water suppliers to ensure at least a three-year supply to their customers under drought conditions.

This resolution replaces the emergency order placed Feb. 2, and other before then, by Gov. Jerry Brown. The new guidelines set specific water conservation benchmarks for urban suppliers, according to a press release from the state water board.

Mario Remillard, Meter and Customer Services Supervisor for the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, said the city’s 20 percent mandate is in effect until the city submits its water production data to the state by June 22. He added the city does not expect to have a shortfall.

However, the state will use data from the 2012-13, 13-14 and 14-15 water years in its calculation. Remillard said the district will have a backup plan for a 10 percent shortfall in case the state comes up with different numbers that CMWD.

In addition, Remillard said the district will revisit the two-day per week watering schedule in August and make any adjustments based on the data.

“My end is to make sure that our customers continue to reduce their use or save water as best as possible going into the future,” he said. “It’s just the new way of life. The prohibitions aren’t going away.”

In Escondido, Public Utilities Director Chris McKinney said the new guidelines are welcomed by all agencies in San Diego County. He said billions have been spent over the past several decades to shore up supply to ensure water users have their share.

He said the cumulative total, which Escondido met throughout the past year, has been reduced from 20 percent to 12.

These standards require local water agencies to ensure a viable supply assuming three more dry years like the ones the state experienced from 2012 to 2015. Water agencies facing shortages under three additional dry years will be required to meet a conservation standard equal to the amount of shortage. For example, if a water agency projects it would have a 10 percent supply shortfall, their mandatory conservation standard would be 10 percent.

As for Escondido and Carlsbad, those agencies are not in jeopardy of missing their goals, McKinney and Remillard said.

“We met our cumulative targets and feel confident will meet those (new) targets,” McKinney said. “I think the entire region is also excited about some of the proposals about how agencies will be able to look at their three-year supply. San Diego (county) has always had enough supply to meet the demand.”

Carlsbad imports a majority of its water, but receives between seven and 10 percent from the desalination plant and more than 25 percent from recycled water, which is used for irrigation purposes.

In Escondido, McKinney said the city’s supply is mostly imported from the San Diego County Water Authority, although it does receive water from rights from the San Luis River, which then takes it through the Escondido canal.

“We do have our local water supply,” he added. “That helps us. Since we have been pretty good at cutting water over the years, we have been given credit for that. As it stands now, we are in very good shape.”

Projections and calculations of the data used to determine the measures will be disclosed publicly, the water board said in its press release. In addition, the information is provided by water wholesale suppliers about regional supplies will fare during the additional three dry years.

The new regulation also requires urban water suppliers to continue their reporting.

The adopted regulation also keeps in place the specific prohibitions against certain water uses. Those prohibitions include watering down a sidewalk with a hose instead of using a broom or a brush, or overwatering a landscape to where water is running off the lawn, over a sidewalk and into the gutter. Prohibitions directed to the hospitality industry and against homeowners associations taking action against homeowners during a declared drought remain as well.

Remillard said runoff from sprinklers and other sources is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the district.

“That’s what we are really keeping our eye on,” he added.

Brown mandated a statewide 25 percent water reduction in April 2015 and one month later, the water board instituted an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable water use.

Water users saved 1.3 million acre-feet of water from June 2015 through March. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover one acre, about the size of a football field, one foot deep.

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