Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency in California, leading one local waterkeeper organization to rally for mandatory water conservation in San Diego County.
According to Gov. Brown, the current drought in the Golden State is perhaps the worst drought since records began in California. He’s calling on all state officials to do everything necessary to prepare for these conditions.
That being said, the San Diego Coastkeeper – an organization that protects and restores swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County – is now calling on the San Diego County Water Authority to enact a mandatory water conservation plan.
Matt O’Malley, a waterkeeper with the organization, said the average resident in San Diego uses 140 gallons of water per day, which includes everything from drinking water to water used in the shower or kitchen.
O’Malley said locals can do better than that, and thinks mandatory water restrictions are necessary at this point.
The San Diego Coastkeeper is urging the Water Authority to require residents to use water more wisely, saying Sacramento and other northern California cities have already imposed mandatory water restrictions to conserve shrinking supplies.
The waterkeeper organization said that when the Water Authority enacted a restriction in 2009, local residents responded by conserving 20 percent. From 2009 to 2011, the region as a whole reduced its water use by 14 percent.
“With all of the odds stacked against our water supply and residents’ responsiveness when asked to reduce use, we see mandatory water conservation as the new standard in water supply for San Diego,” said O’Malley. “It’s the only way to ensure an affordable California way of life that we all love.”
According to O’Malley, the region takes almost half of what it uses from the Colorado River and another 30 percent from the San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California. The Colorado River was named the Most Endangered River in America in 2013.
On Friday, amid Gov. Brown’s drought announcement, NBC 7 spoke to locals who about the water issue. Many said they couldn’t remember the last time it rained.
NBC 7 has reached out to the San Diego County Water Authority for comment.
On Friday afternoon, the Water Authority announced that the local region has adequate water supplies and reserves for 2014 because of “local investments in diverse and more reliable water supplies over the past two decades and a long-term decrease in regional water demand.”
The Water Authority said it’s not projecting the need for countywide water-use restrictions right now but is encouraging residents and businesses to use water efficiently and avoid wasting the resource.
“Today’s declaration underscores the constant water supply challenges facing California, the need to always use water wisely and the value of our investments in diversifying our water supplies,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors.
The Water Authority also said its staff is in the process of closely evaluating Gov. Brown's drought declaration. Staffers plan to deliver an update on local water supply conditions at the next Board of Directors meeting on Jan. 23.
Water Authority officials said San Diegans have made great strides in water-use efficiency over the years, with per capita water use decreasing about 27 percent since 2007. To learn more about water supply, visit the Water Authority’s website.