California Drought Could Lead to Mandatory Water Restrictions Reinstated Statewide

San Diego has been working for decades to diversify its water sources. If statewide water restrictions are implemented, our region could be exempt

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Even on an overcast, dewy day at the beach, drought conditions are of concern.

In July, Governor Gavin Newsom urged everyone across the state to cut their water use by 15%, but some water experts say that may not be enough.

“For us in San Diego County, we live in an arid region and we should be really behaving like we live in a drought 365 days of the year," said Ian Monahan said, director of marketing and philanthropy for I Lova A Clean San Diego, an environmental non-profit focused on zero waste.

According to NOAA’s Drought Monitor Map, most of California is under extreme drought. San Diego County is listed as moderate.

“What we’re noticing now, especially with climate change, is the impacts of drought are becoming even greater and now is really a time to cut back,” Monahan said.

For the first time ever, the federal government declared a water shortage in San Diego’s largest water source (66%) -- the Colorado River -- triggering mandatory water consumption cuts for states in the Southwest.

The San Diego County Water Authority said our allotment of more than 280,000 acre-feet of water per year will not be impacted by potential Colorado River cutbacks because of our “high priority status.”

San Diego County’s water supply is also made up of groundwater, seawater desalination and recycled water -- predicted to last for decades— but conservationists believe residents should not get complacent.

Mandatory water conservation targets would likely mean limits on watering lawns, with fines for violators, along with water allotments for homes and businesses to keep supplies from running out.

Similar measures were taken during the 2012-2016 drought, and they could be under consideration in about six weeks. But like the last time, San Diego qualified for an exemption because we had a three-year supply of water and one of the lowest water uses per capita in the state.

“Our water sources come from different areas so anything that we can do to conserve is not only going to help us right now in our drought situation, but for generations to come,” Monahan said.

Experts say the majority of water use happens outside the house and suggest we conserve water by:

  • Cutting back on watering lawns
  • Plant drought-tolerant plants
  • Cover pools to reduce evaporation
  • Install devices to reduce water flow out of faucets, toilets and washing machines
  • Collect shower water in buckets to water plants

The city of San Diego already has year-round water restrictions which help to keep our supply full.

City spokesman Brian Hojnacki told NBC 7 Wednesday, “If statewide water restrictions were implemented, further reduction would be difficult to achieve.”

To encourage more water conservation, Tuesday, San Diego County Water Authority announced new rebates for property owners who create sustainable landscape upgrades in unincorporated areas.

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