No more brown lawns? Plan to remove water restrictions in San Diego considered

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 19:00:42-04

SAN DIEGO - The City Council's Environment Committee Thursday gave tentative approval to a proposal to ratchet back water use restrictions, following reports of ample local supply.

If the change from a Level Two Drought Alert response to a Level One Drought Watch is given final approval by the full City Council at a future meeting, water conservation efforts would become voluntary, though city officials will continue to urge efficient use.

While San Diegans would be allowed more flexibility, they "can't just leave the water running," committee Chairman David Alvarez said.

Under a Drought Watch, residents would be allowed to irrigate their lawns three days a week instead of two. Before the item goes before the full City Council, staff will study a suggested tweak in which the two-day restriction would remain, but residents would be allowed to water for longer periods of time.

San Diegans would also be asked to voluntarily water trees and plants with a shut-off nozzle, pail or hose sprinkler system; and wash cars before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. with a shut-off nozzle.

Customers will still find inserts in bills promoting water conservation and see similar messages in social media. City officials also plan to continue rebates for things like purchasing rain barrels and pressure regulation valves.

The San Diego County Water Authority, which supplies water to the city of San Diego for distribution to customers, recently adopted a regional approach to certifying sufficiency and said enough supply is available locally to meet demand for the next three years, even if they're dry. If the certification is endorsed by state water officials, water agencies in the county won't face mandated conservation through January of next year, according to the Water Authority.

Since June of last year, city of San Diego customers have reduced water consumption by 18 percent.

"San Diegans are to be commended for the extraordinary efforts to conserve water," Councilman Todd Gloria said.

While city restrictions would ease, certain state requirements will remain in effect. They include bans on:

-- hosing off driveways, sidewalks and similar hardscapes
-- washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle
-- using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature
-- irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians
-- watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48 hours of measurable rainfall

The item heading to the City Council would write the state restrictions into the city's municipal code.