Gov. Gavin Newsom at Lopez Lake
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at receding Lopez Lake in San Luis Obispo County in 2021. Courtesy of the governor’s office

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Monday calling for increased water conservation after the driest first quarter in California’s history, but the San Diego region will be largely spared.

Newsom called on local water suppliers to move to their Level 2 drought plans, which anticipate shortages of up to 20% and could include restrictions on watering in many parts of the state.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” said said Newsom. “I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties.”

The executive order gives local agencies leeway to act based on their own water supplies, which in the case of the San Diego County Water Authority remain robust.

“The impact from a water supply standpoint is minimal,” said Water Resources Manager Jeff Stephenson. “But our message is really still focused on reminding people to be efficient in water use.”

More than two decades of investment in local water supply and storage, including building the Carlsbad desalination plant, enlarging the San Vicente Reservoir and obtaining supplies from the Imperial Valley, have compensated for severe cutbacks in water from the State Water Project and Colorado River.

Stephenson said Northern California is bearing the brunt of the drought, but “we’re helping everywhere we can to be part of the solution.” In December, the water authority released supplies from a storage facility in Kern County for use in drought-stricken parts of the state.

Newsom’s order also requested the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at businesses and institutions. Such a ban could save enough water for up to a million households.

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