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San Diego prepping long-term water solutions as state requests cuts

Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 20:29:28-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - As California Governor Gavin Newsom asks residents of the state to cut water usage by 15%, the San Diego County Water Authority is supporting that request while simultaneously working on long-term solutions to combat water shortages.

Goldy Herbon, Senior Water Resources Specialist for the Water Resources Department at San Diego County Water Authority, said there is no imminent concern over water shortages in San Diego County, however, it is important for locals to cut back now to set the area up for success in the future. The reason the area is in a safe place now is because of steps taken in the last few decades, similar to how steps taken now will set the region up for success moving forward.

“What we save now and what we reduce now will buffer us for more dire situations come near future or long-term future,” said Herbon.

She acknowledges that San Diegans have already done an excellent job cutting back on water usage. Per capita water usage has been cut in half per household since 1990. Still, more can be done. She said even water-aware residents can continue to take steps to cut, including taking just five-minute showers and cleaning cars at public car washes that recycle their water.

As the public makes these changes, water leaders are also working on long-term solutions. Transported water from other areas used to be a major contributor to San Diego County water, but the goal is to phase transported water out of the equation. Most of the transported water comes from regions like Northern California and the Colorado River, but those areas are experiencing historic lows for water levels.

In 1990, 95% of the water used in San Diego County was transported. In 2020, that was cut to 18%. The goal is to cut it to 8% by 2045.

A major reason this transported water is such a risk is because much of it relies on climate to stay full. With extremely dry conditions becoming more common, rivers and reservoirs are drying out.

The solution: locally produced clean water that is not dependent on Mother Nature.

Two major tools used to solve this problem are desalination plants, which remove the salt from ocean water, and also potable reuse, which cleans wastewater.

Currently, a desal plant operates in Oceanside, providing about 8% of San Diego County’s water.

There are also three potable reuse facilities being built in San Diego County. The goal is to have these facilities replace the water that would have been provided from transported water, supplying 18% of the county’s water by 2045.

Herbon said this locally developed and controlled infrastructure will ultimately strengthen the supply.

“It’s critical for us to have a planning approach that creates sustainable water supply so that San Diegans can rely on resilient and reliable water supplies into the future that are not predicated on drought conditions and in need of major rain events,” she said.

Water usage

While these facilities are being built, they continue to ask for locals to do their part in conserving water. The water authority has introduced various incentive programs for people looking to remodel to be more drought-friendly. Information for that can be found at