The Olivenhain Dram (left) and Lake Hodges in North San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Waster Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority‘s board approved the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan Thursday for submission to the state.

The plan highlights how a regional commitment to a “water portfolio approach” means San Diego County will continue to have reliable water supplies through 2045, even during dry years.

The board approved the final plan following a public hearing on March 25 and a 60-day public comment period which ended May 6. It will be submitted to the California Department of Water Resources by the July 1 deadline.

“Successful efforts to create a reliable water supply coupled with the development of new local sources by the water authority and its 24 member agencies ensure that the region will weather dry times over the next two decades,” said board Chair Gary Croucher.

“We continue to collaborate with our member agencies on investments in infrastructure and local supply sources to benefit the region’s ratepayers now and in future years.”

The authority started the current Urban Water Management Plan process in September 2018, coordinating with its member agencies, most of which must submit their own plans to the state.

The agencies provided input for the final plan as part of the water authority’s ongoing effort to align local and regional projections while following applicable guidelines and using regional models.

The plan’s long-range forecast shows an increase in regional demand of less than 1% per year through 2045.

This rise is consistent with changes forecast by other large water suppliers in the state, including San Diego and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Multiple supply and demand projections factor into urban water management plans, which are mandated by the state to ensure sufficient supplies over a period of 25 years.

The plans are not used to set water rates. Rates are set annually based on multiple factors, including operating costs, but not long-term projections about supply.

In a separate action on Thursday, the water authority’s general manager recommended a $1.7 billion budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 that is unchanged from the current two-year budget because of cost control.

By law, the water authority’s urban water plan must be updated every five years.

The demand forecast accounts for changes in socio-economic factors, such as the number of projected housing units, the mix of single-family and multi-family dwellings and employment growth.

Conservation projections account for continued adoption of water-use efficiency measures, compliance with landscape water-use ordinances for residential construction and installations of sustainable landscapes at existing homes.

Since 1991, San Diego County ratepayers have conserved more than 1 million acre-feet of water. Per capita potable water use in the region decreased nearly 50% between fiscal years 1990 and 2020.

The 2020 plan also highlights the authority’s long-term strategy regarding reliable and locally controlled supplies from the Carlsbad desalination plant and a conservation-and-transfer agreement that provides water from the Colorado River.

The final 2020 Urban Water Management Plan can be found online.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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