Top officials with the San Diego County Water Authority on Wednesday called for the region to voluntarily cut its water use by as much as 10 percent.
The announcement by the region’s wholesaler comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday declared a statewide drought emergency. The state has been calling on urban water users for the last two months to voluntarily slash consumption by 15 percent — 5 percent more than the Water Authority’s new target.
The state slashed water use by 5 percent in August compared with the same month last year. But there were large disparities. While the North Coast cut its use by more than 18 percent and the San Francisco Bay Area by nearly 10 percent, Southern California as a whole reduced its water consumption by just 3 percent.
In San Diego County, conservation efforts were also mixed in August. While Escondido cut back by more than 16 percent, the city of San Diego was only able to reduce its water use by 1.7 percent.
The Water Authority, like much of Southern California, has maintained that it has adequate water for this year and into next, largely thanks to investment in storage and supplies from the Colorado River. The agency has asked the state not to enact mandatory cuts, which could further drive up the already sky-high cost of water in the region.
However, General Manager Sandra Kerl said on Wednesday that residents should increase voluntary efforts to cut back on everything from showers to outdoor irrigation.
“While we are hopeful that a wet winter will take the edge off this current drought, we need to recognize that may not be the case,” Kerl said in a press statement. “The entire American West is facing hot and dry conditions not seen in our lifetimes, and the realities of climate change mean we need to prepare for this as the new normal.”
The Water Authority will seek approval from its 36-member board of directors on next Thursday to officially activate its Water Shortage Contingency Plan at level 1. That would trigger a public messaging campaign calling on residents to cut usage up to 10 percent.
Pervious versions of the plan call have been activated in 2007 and 2014.
The agency is working on efforts to install low-flow toilets in low-income communities and has a variety of other drought-focused programs, including for turf rebate and water-efficient appliances. More information can be found at watersmartsd.org.