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    Published: March 27, 2015

    Water Success Story: San Diego County

    With their state’s drought entering its fourth year, it’s easy for Californians to get discouraged and wonder just how much their water conservation steps are really helping. Is it really going to make a difference to municipal water supplies if you water the lawn or wash the car with the garden hose instead of using a bucket?

    The answer, if San Diego County is any indication, is a resounding yes. Thanks to a concerted effort by residents and the San Diego County Water Authority, water use dropped 28% in January compared to last year. The accomplishment is particularly impressive considering January 2015 had an average daily temperature 4.3 degrees above average, and received only 21% of normal rainfall.

    January is actually the second month in a row to report impressive reductions in water use. December 2014 reported a 29% drop in water use compared to December 2013.

    The amount of water conserved in January amounts to 12,000 acre-feet of water, or enough to provide the daily water needs of 24,000 four-person homes for a year. The savings could well prove vital if the summer of 2015 is as hot and dry as it was in 2014. Or, as Mark Weston, chair of the SDCWA board of directors put it, “The more we can cut back now, the better off we will be this summer and fall.”

    So how is San Diego managing to conserve water so efficiently? The answer lies in the SDCWA’s regional Model Drought Response Ordinance. The ordinance established four levels of response with progressive restrictions, while the SDCWA does a magnificent job of educating San Diego residents on ways to conserve water. The ordinance has a record of proven effectiveness as well—it helped the county manage water supply problems from May 2007 to April 2011.

    Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the SDCWA notes the role advance planning played in the county’s drought response: “We have spent decades preparing for dry times, and we have an orderly plan to manage supply allocations while maintaining a strong economy and our quality of life.”

    In other words, San Diego County doesn’t view water conservation as something that only kicks in during drought conditions: times of abundant water are used to prepare for the future. That’s a lesson we can all benefit from, whether it inspires us to fix a leaky toilet, install a Pelican eco-friendly water filtration system, or plant drought resistant native species to reduce our landscaping water needs.