SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded a drought emergency to now include all of California. During the summer, 50 of the state’s 58 counties were announced as part of the emergency declaration. The eight counties that were previously excluded are now included, which includes most of Southern California.
San Diego County is one of the eight counties now added. The emergency declaration encourages Californians to cut back water usage by 15% and asks all local water agencies to implement conservation plans.
The San Diego Water Authority already had plans to ask its board for approval to implement the first step in a local water conservation plan. That request will still be presented to the board Thursday, Oct. 28.
“We’ve been here before, we’ve done this. Let’s just start with that from the beginning so that agencies and areas like San Diego who have plenty of water supply don’t have to go to water restrictions like the rest of the state,” said Water Resources Manager Jeff Stephenson.
Stephenson added that San Diego’s water supply is not at high risk because of all of the planning done in recent years to tap into alternative water options. However, he said conservation steps now will be beneficial in ensuring mandatory cutbacks are not implemented.
Beneficial steps include avoiding wasting potable water on tasks like washing driveways, finding leaks in homes and also designing yards to be more drought-tolerant. The San Diego Water Authority has published a list of tips, along with available rebate opportunities. Information for that can be found at watersmartsd.org.
While the state is being asked to conserve 15%, that number is tricky in San Diego.
“They’re comparing this 15% to your water use in 2020. In San Diego in 2020, we had 130% of normal rainfall. When that happens, water use goes down because people turn off their irrigation systems. So we have this very low baseline and to try to reduce 15% beyond that is going to be very challenging,” said Stephenson.
The Drought Monitor map shows how extreme the drought is across the state. While San Diego County is in one of the best levels (moderate drought), there is still a concern.
“We don’t rely on the local rainfall for very much water in San Diego. We could be dry here in San Diego. That doesn’t mean we have a water supply shortage because our water is coming from different sources,” said Stephenson.
Large portions of water currently come from places like the Colorado River and Lake Mead, along with Northern California. Plans in place will start moving San Diego’s water supply toward recycled wastewater in the future.
There are currently multiple large storms forecasted to hit Northern California in the coming week, but National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Tardy said more will be crucial.
“That’s great news for fire weather but it may be a relatively small drop in the deficit bucket in terms of recharging our reservoirs and recharging our water supply,” said Tardy.
Tardy added that even if Northern California hit normal rainfall amounts, there would still be a large deficit. In addition, a La Nina pattern is expected, which typically means a more dry season, emphasizing how crucial conservation will be now.