San Diego's Water-Saving Efforts Get Thumbs Up From Gov. Brown

With the state's nonstop drought crisis fueling a more intense fire season, California Gov. Jerry Brown visited San Diego Tuesday for a summit meeting with Mayor Kevin Faulconer, local water officials and civic leaders.

He said San Diegans have been cutting their water use in full compliance with the state's mandate of 25 percent this year, and that no “enforcement actions” appear likely going forward.

But the governor warned that this region especially has to keep up with whatever new conservation benchmarks and capital investments are required.

"This is the end of the pipeline,” he said, “so if we're not able to strengthen our water facilities through modernization and the 'Delta Fix,' then of course San Diego will experience dramatic shortages in water."

He warned that it'll take the state a long time to expand its system of reservoirs and delivery facilities -- as well as bring more desalinization, recycling technology online.

The governor made it clear that more customer rate increases can't be avoided to pay for all that, nor can restrictions on water use for the foreseeable future.

"And I know these bills can get high,” he acknowledged. “This water gets expensive. But if you don't have it, there's no price that one wouldn't want to pay."

San Diego's "City Pure Water" recycling program – projected to serve about half the city's needs within 20 years -- was called out as an example of technology that'll have to become more widespread.

Those efforts and other capital projects are in line for state Prop.1 subsidies, which will soften the impact of rate hikes.

The upshot of the two hour meeting at city hall?

Californians can't expect to go back to the days of giving no real thought to their water use.

"We know that conservation will be a way of life,” Faulconer said, “not just the next five or 10 years, but the next 20, 30, 50 years out in advance."

One question raised during a Q&A media availability during the meeting was the potential threat posed by the mining waste spill in the Colorado River -- a water source for Southern California:

"The spill is really upstream from where Southern California gets its water from the California aqueduct,” replied city Public Utilites Director Halla Razak. “We are watching very carefully and doing plenty of testing, and at this time, there is absolutely no concern for the quality of water because we're over 800 miles away from where the actual spill happened."

The governor was asked whether he might consider funding desalinization projects with some money from the controversial, high-speed rail program -- as critics of the so-called "Bullet Train" have suggested.

He gave a roundabout answer, drawing laughs for his obvious evasiveness, which boiled down to "no."

Contact Us