California is experiencing one of its driest stretches yet but San Diego County’s water agency isn’t alarmed.
In the weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, the San Diego County Water Authority has repeatedly said past efforts to diversify its water sources and hold more H20 in storage mean our region can avoid the significant cutbacks others have seen.
The water agency’s board did vote Thursday to begin urging cities and agencies that rely on it to usher in voluntary belt-tightening. But that move is far less drastic than the 20 percent cuts the governor urged last month.
That relatively rosy outlook didn’t come without a major trigger.
In the early 1990s, San Diego relied on one major source for almost all its water: the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which draws much of its H20 from the Colorado River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Here’s what that looked like.
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San Diegans need to establish a dialogue addressing two important aspects that aren't covered in this article: recycled water for household use, and the use of grey water. The unfortunate moniker applied to the former, "toilet to tap," has stymied serious efforts to make use of this renewable resource. Overlooked in all of the rhetoric is the fact that, since we're at the end of the Colorado river, all of the water coming from the Imperial Valley is already recycled, having gone through the bodies of everyone upriver from us.
As to the second item, laws need to be passed to make permitting of water from household drains, dishwashers, and washing machines ("grey water") easier. The availability of sophisticated pumps, filters, and storage containers makes us look foolish to let all of that water simply run into the ocean. It could easily sustain landscaping, if only landscape contractors could more easily install such systems. But the permitting process is lugubrious, and needs to be streamlined. A side benefit would be to create new jobs for the folks who would install these systems.
In addition to showing overall water use, it would be helpful to show water use by sector in order to inform the public about where there are the most opportunities for more efficient use of water: Residential, Agriculture, Thermoelectric, Livestock, etc. Overall for California it looks like this:
Of total water used in California:
Agriculture = 80% (State Department of Water Resources)
Of total California Gross Domestic Product: Agriculture = 3% (State Department of Finance)
Number of water districts in California: 1,286 (Legislative Analyst's Office)
Yes, 80% of California's water is used to support 3% of its economy
Today's water debates are often portrayed as Northern Cal residents vs Southern Cal lawns and golf courses. But that is a red herring. Even if every residential water user in Southern California let their lawns and golf courses die, that would not begin to solve California's water problems. You have to go where 80% of California's water is used to support 3% of its economy: Agriculture. And you have to get 1,286 water districts on board to address the problem.
Still, based on the 2014 pie chart, more than 3/4 of our water comes ultimately from the Colorado River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. If those sources decline, we can expect to feel it.
Thank you VOSD. Great article and must-read for every San Diegan to understand our water resources. SD City Council took a path of least resistance in adopting the same water conservation measures back in 2009. To bottom line this, there is no revenue stream in water conservation. There is no leadership in the water districts....just nice pensions.
Another typical great piece of work by Lisa. San Diego lives under a water Sword of Damocles. We need a deep and extensive change in our water consumption habits. San Diego leaders worry that water conservation will be bad for development. We see the issue put as green vs. water, while the opposite is true. Reclaiming our water shed, decentralized recycling, and water conservation are immediate needs. We need new leaders in control of San Diego/s water policies, the current group is giving us a false sense of confidence.
I completely agree with you Mike. We need some true leadership that will not hide behind a false reliance on temporary sources. Even if San Diego is currently better positioned than other cities, do you really think that LA won't come knocking on our water door when they run dry? We are all in this together. Taking a regionalist position is not particularly helpful.
Over the years San Diego Water authority has purchased and positioned Water rights. As the graphs show they have diversified those rights and purchases putting San Diego in a much better position.
One of their Storage assets (30,000 acre-feet) was purchased from a local company back in 2008 who owned the rights to those assets.