San Diego’s place as the top producer of avocados in the country is starting to slip, thanks to soaring water rates and more water being brought in from the salt-heavy Colorado River.
Ten years ago, San Diego water officials predicted demand for water would rise dramatically. Instead, the 1-2 punch of the recession and drought means San Diegans are using far less water than expected. The latest projections show the Water Authority now expects San Diego customers will keep saving water. Of course, lower demand doesn’t mean lower prices — those are expected to keep going up.
Efforts to build or expand water treatment plans in the early 2000s cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, as demand has fallen, the plants operate at a fraction of their capacity or even sit idle for parts of the year.
With too much water on their hands, San Diego water officials find themselves paying to treat water not once but twice.
The state has seemingly broad powers to dictate water policy and, despite predictions of a wet winter, appears likely to use those powers when current cuts expire.
A $2.85 billion multi-part project, branded Pure Water, is hoping to use wastewater to start producing 30 million gallons a day of drinkable water within the next six years. That’s two years sooner and twice as much water as envisioned just months ago. East County and North County officials have their own projects in the works.
A new $1 billion plant to desalinate water from the Pacific Ocean is set to open this fall in Carlsbad. But because of a quirk, the region is unlikely to need desalinated water this year.
Water agency leaders are now questioning whether giving rebates to people and businesses who switch to drought-resistant lawns is a good use of funds. The program might not save that much water, they say – and in the meantime, it’s subsidizing rich people.
Water officials make lots of assumptions to ensure something will come out of our spigots in the future. Sometimes, they have to re-evaluate those assumptions.
San Diego County will have to up the ante on water conservation. The county currently uses around 40 percent of its supply for drinking water.