GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

San Diego Water Department Home Survey

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 12, 2009

When we purchased our home in 1987, we still remembered the severe drought in the 70s when San Diego was under mandatory restrictions. Since the house was in need of landscaping, right off the bat the decision was to stick to plants and trees that require a minimum of water. We decided against using automatic sprinklers, and do all watering by hand with a hose. A large slope in the back yard was the only exception, where we installed four sprinklers with water-conserving rotator nozzles…again, under manual control so that we chose when water was needed. The slope was nothing but freeway iceplant which we ripped out and replaced with a variety of things like rosemary, pyracantha, india hawthorne, honeysuckle, and red apple iceplant. We did splurge on a small patch of lawn, Marathon sod, which we were told was a low-moderate water user. Not really. We’ve since decided to give it up and replace it with something else. If you’re interested, here’s a catalog of what we have at the house.

FrontNew

Indoors, we replaced all toilets with 1.6 gallon models, put in low-flow adjustable 1.5-2.5 GPM showerheads, and use a front-loading washing machine. We reduced showers to every-other-day (unless, well you know), flushed according to the ditty (“if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”), caught warm-up water in buckets for our potted plants. Early this year when the city proposed mandatory cutbacks based on historical use, I was definitely worried because I didn’t see how we could conserve any more. So I was a bit relieved when they decided against that and instead went to a 3-day 10-minute watering schedule. I’d rather see a water budget based on needs, but that was better than the historical use approach which I think benefits those who have wasted up until now and hurts those who have conserved all along. Still, I wondered if I was doing enough, so I decided to make an appointment with the San Diego Water Department for a home survey. There was a three-month backlog, so I signed up and waited.

Today we had our survey done. The surveyor had our previous water use records with him and checked the current reading on the meter. He looked over all the landscaping and discussed my irrigation methods and timing with me. He checked for any leaks in the plumbing system, and examined all the toilets, faucets, dishwasher and washer. His conclusion: when compared with other properties with a similar lot size, he said we’re doing better than anybody he has seen so far. Well that was nice to hear. I had to resist an impulse to go out immediately and do some watering, though, because he said he would water a little bit more in a few areas. I admit I had been testing the limits to see how little my plants can stand without dying. I probably will increase a bit, but not much. At least I’ve relieved that nagging feeling that we’re still using too much. Considering the fact that we can walk over to Mission Trails Regional Park and see a large variety of native plants doing just fine without any artificial irrigation at all, though, we probably are still net water wasters since we need to regularly water our plants. I just don’t want to give up our small row of roses!

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