Smart Meters, Potable Recycling Program

Boost City’s Water Management Efforts

Despite impressive savings by residents, San Diego's water conservation and management programs are being ramped up again.

Water Utilities officials say there's no going back to old usage levels for a decade or more, beyond lifting of certain goals and restrictions.

The department is looking to spend another $850,000 on a public information campaign.

For starters, May has been declared "Water Awareness Month" by the City Council.

By now, area residents who spoke Tuesday with NBC 7 really seem to have gotten the message.

“I'm an individual with a lot of individual friends, so together I think that we can make a difference,” La Mesa resident Chelsea Maxson said. “And absolutely, I feel like we're saving the world one step at a time. And if that's what we need to do, then that's what we need to do."

One giant step is buying into the notion of recycling wastewater for potable, household purposes.

San Diego's pilot program is generating a purer product that is currently coming out of taps, and off the shelves in bottles.

It will be greatly expanded to produce a third of the city's needs by 2035.

Officials are pleased that residents have lowered their usage well below the state-mandated goals for last year and even up to 2020.

But they don’t want anyone to get complacent about being water-wise.

Meantime, the city expects to spend $60 million to install 270,000 "smart" water meters that can be read digitally.

The City Council’s Environmental Committee chairman, David Alvarez, sees it as a huge technological advance for the department and residents alike.

"You are able to track how you're doing on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis, to see if there's a time of day that you're using more water,” Alvarez told NBC 7. “Is there something going on? Is there maybe a leak? There's information you don't have today that you will in the future with these smart water meters."

Even so, this cautionary note was offered by Travis Pritchard, programs director for San Diego Coastkeeper: “We're still a little skeptical of the individual conservation efforts on that. But we hope that people will use that resource -- and visualize exactly how much water that 20-minute lawn watering you just did cost."

The installation program is projected to be completed by the end of next year, after more than three years of testing a “fixed network” pilot system of 11,000 meters.

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