The San Diego County Water Authority is upgrading the All-American Canal to increase water supplies from sources other than the Metropolitan Water District. Photo courtesy water authority

In response to deepening drought conditions and new statewide directives, the San Diego County Water Authority said Tuesday its staff is recommending a move to Level 2 Drought Alert with mandatory water conservation.

The authority’s board of directors will make the final decision at a meeting next week. In addition, city councils and water district boards will have to take action to activate mandatory water-use restrictions in their jurisdictions.

The Level 2 mandatory conservation measures include:

  • Limiting outdoor watering days and times
  • Watering only during the late evening or early morning hours
  • Eliminating runoff from irrigation systems
  • Repairing all leaks within 72 hours
  • Turning off water fountains and other water features unless they use recycled water
  • Using hoses with shut-off valves for washing cars (or patronizing commercial car washes that re-circulate water)
  • Serving water to restaurant patrons only upon request
  • Offering hotel guests the option of not laundering towels and linens daily
  • Using recycled or non-potable water for construction when available

The actions would help San Diego County keep as much water as possible in storage for 2015 and comply with emergency water conservation mandates approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Graphic shows the different drought levels and the conservation required.

“Regional investments and a demonstrated commitment to conservation have buffered San Diego County from the worst effects of the drought so far, but we believe the right thing to do now is to move to mandatory water conservation measures,” said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the water authority.

“We don’t know how long this drought will last – and the unusually hot and dry conditions have made it more challenging to save water with voluntary efforts.”

Despite conservation efforts, extremely hot and dry conditions pushed up regional water use an estimated 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2014 compared to the prior fiscal year. However, even with this weather-driven increase, water use in San Diego County has declined 20 percent since 2007.

Rainfall at Lindbergh Field is about half of normal so far in 2014, and average temperatures at Lindbergh Field are the highest since at least 1940 for January through May. While there is a high likelihood of an El Niño weather phenomenon forming this fall and winter, the water authority said forecasters are beginning to downgrade its strength, lowering its potential to produce heavy rain and snow that California needs this winter to stabilize water supplies.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.