REGION — Thanks in part to winter rain and snow storms, state and local agencies are loosening water-use restrictions in Solana Beach and Del Mar.
But one council member in the latter city called the move premature, prompting his colleagues to hold off on downgrading to a Stage 1 drought level.
“I think it’s a mistake to relax our drought restrictions — a big mistake — because the drought’s not over,” Del Mar Councilman Don Mosier said. “The fact is that … two-thirds of the state is still in a drought.
“You’re undoing a good program,” he added. “This community’s adapted to using less water, and I think we should continue to do that.”
After several years of dry weather conditions, mandatory reductions were ordered by the state. Local agencies such as the San Diego County Water Authority, Del Mar’s wholesale supplier, issued water-use restrictions.
Del Mar has been at a Stage 2 drought level since July 2014. Because it has less than 3,000 connections, the city was required to implement twice weekly watering restrictions with no mandated cutback target amount.
The city stopped power washing downtown sidewalks two years ago and turned off beach showers last year.
After a wet winter the state ended supply allocations and replaced mandated conservation targets with a supply-based approach that considers each agency’s specific situation and water supplies — an approach the Water Authority sought for more than a year, the staff report states.
Regional impacts were reduced further when the Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad went online this past December.
Earlier this year state and local water agencies lifted the Stage 2 drought level, meaning that in Del Mar twice-weekly watering restrictions would no longer be mandatory but voluntary conservation is still urged.
Some state restrictions are still prohibited, including hosing off driveways and hardscape, washing cars using hoses without shut-off nozzles, overwatering lawns and causing runoff, irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians and serving drinking water other than on request in restaurants.
Based on the state and regional changes, staff recommended Del Mar adopt a resolution lowering the drought level to Stage 1, turning on the beach showers at Powerhouse Park and 25th Street and power washing the downtown sidewalks.
Mosier said he supports the latter two recommendations for health and safety reasons, but asked his colleagues to keep the drought level at Stage 2.
“To relax the drought restrictions because we have the Poseidon plant online I think is a mistake because next year we may have to go back to level two,” he said.
But the bigger issue, he added, is that people adapted to watering twice a week, adjusted their water metering and changed their landscaping.
“For everyone who’s invested in living with less water we should allow that to continue and not reverse course,” Mosier said. “All the data we’ve seen suggests we’re going to have more drought in the future. So why reverse these restrictions based on current water supply when all the climate change models say we’re going to have continued drought in Southern California?”
“If there’s not a drought according to the Water Authority why would you want to continue (the restrictions)?” Councilman Al Corti asked, noting that a lot of landscaping is not doing well and may be creating a fire hazard.
“If we don’t need to do it I just hate to see Del Mar wither away,” Corti said.
“I’m arguing with the San Diego County Water Authority,” Mosier said. “I’m saying that’s a short-sighted plan. … I think the drought is long-term and it’s a reality we need to adapt to.”
Councilman Dwight Worden agreed with Mosier’s arguments as a matter of policy.
“But as a regulatory matter it doesn’t feel right to me,” Worden said. “We’re going to be out power washing the sidewalks while we tell people we’re not lifting the restrictions on other things.
“If I ruled the world, and you’re probably all happy I don’t, I would leave it at level two because it makes an important policy statement that we are still, as a state and a region, in a drought that looks to be long-term but we’re going to create some new categories,” he added.
In the end, council members agreed that Mosier and Worden will work with city staff to develop a compromise resolution.
In response to the state rescinding the one-size-fits-all approach to water conservation, the Santa Fe Irrigation District, Solana Beach’s water supplier, agreed June 16 to remove mandatory water restrictions and make water conservation actions voluntary.
The restrictions noted above remain in effect. Conservation efforts continued to be strongly urged. Beach showers in the city have been turned back on as well.
About a year ago Santa Fe Irrigation District implemented a water allocation program after it was required by the state to reduce water use by 36 percent.
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. The allocation program was suspended in February but mandatory cutbacks remained in place.