Mayor Kevin Faulconer with the city seal and flag in the background. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Tuesday that he’s joining a call to impose mandatory water use restrictions on San Diego residents and businesses because of the continuing drought.

The proposal is set to go before the City Council’s Environment Committee on Wednesday. Councilmen David Alvarez, who chairs the committee, and Ed Harris called last week for making the now-voluntary restrictions mandatory.

Faulconer said he, too, is calling for mandatory restrictions since the drought shows no sign of easing and state water reserves are dangerously low.

He noted, however, that San Diego residents have responded to the voluntary measures by cutting back use by 5.7 percent in September and 4.4 percent in August.

“The vast majority of San Diegans have conserved, and I want to thank them for their efforts, but unfortunately, these other circumstances require us to do even more,” Faulconer said. “Looking ahead to 2015, if consistent rains do not materialize, things could go from bad to worse.”

Halla Rezak, director of the city’s Public Utilities Department, said the major water wholesaler in Southern California — the Metropolitan Water District — has only 49 percent of its usual capacity available.

The San Diego County Water Authority is at around 37 percent, while reservoirs serving the city of San Diego are at 44 percent of capacity, she said.

If approved by the full City Council and signed into law by the mayor, the mandatory restrictions would include measures like:

  • Watering lawns three days a week, and limited to seven minutes per station during the cooler weather months.
  • Using hoses with shut-off nozzles or timed-sprinkler systems to provide water to landscaped areas.
  • Washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Watering potted plants, vegetable gardens and fruit trees before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • And not watering lawns or plants on rainy days.

Faulconer said he hopes the City Council enacts the mandatory restrictions by the end of this month.

Matt O’Malley, of the environmental group San Diego Coastkeeper, said the proposal comes at a “crucial time for our region,” and he welcomes the move.

“As we enter the fourth year of drought in California, and recognize the likelihood of cutbacks and rationing in Southern California in the near future, we have to plan for long-term changes,” O’Malley said. “With the mayor’s support and continued work by council members David Alvarez and Ed Harris, we can bring San Diego into alignment with water conservation measures practiced throughout the state.”

He said enforcement of mandatory measures is key to the success of the drought response and “essential in our adjustment to a new water ethic that protects the San Diego way of life and the ecosystems that provide our drinking water.”

According to Faulconer, only one citation needed to be issued while mandatory restrictions were in place in the last drought.

— City News Service

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