San Diego Rates Oversight Committee endorses continued water use restrictions
Posted by George J Janczyn on July 19, 2010
The San Diego Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) today voted to express support and encouragement for City Councilmember Donna Frye’s proposal to make the city’s drought-level water use restrictions permanent. The restrictions were mandated last year due to the city’s precarious water supply situation exacerbated by California’s extended drought.
Several committee members pointed out that local or regional drought has little to do with the city’s tight water supply, because our supply is not greatly affected by local conditions but because of conditions (and not only drought-related) in the entire western region that we import from. So, while expressing support for the proposal, they suggested that it would be better to avoid using the word “drought” when considering the restrictions and recognize that the need to more strictly conserve is an ongoing fact of life.
Frye agreed, saying that San Diego should permanently change its water consumption behavior to reflect the reality of the water supply situation, not conserve only under certain circumstances. Water conservation, she pointed out, is the single most cost-effective way for the city to deal with the problem.
Other points made during the discussion:
- Alex Ruiz, SD Water Dept. director, said that about 60% of the city’s water use goes toward outdoor irrigation.
- Donna Frye said she will continue to encourage dialogues, hold workshops, and engage citizen groups to further study the issue. She expects to put the proposed ordinance before the City Council by October.
- Committee member Don Billings wondered if the restrictions should apply to customers using reclaimed water. The consensus was that they should. He also said cost and enforcement issues should be examined, and that tiered pricing to promote conservation is desirable.
- Committee member Todd Webster said he didn’t like the technique of specifically mandating specific times and days that watering is permitted.
- Committee member Jack Kubota expressed dismay that recycled water customers seem to think they should be able to use as much as they want, commenting how incongruous it is to visit Palm Springs and see lush lawns, gardens, and fountain displays everywhere. He also noted that residents who live in areas that overlap with other water districts might chafe with different rules for nearby neighbors (Olivenhain, for example, is rescinding its water use restrictions).
- Chairman Jim Peugh wondered if the permanent restrictions might make it more difficult for the city to impose further restrictions in the future if things get tighter again.
In other news from the committee:
- The contract for the advanced treatment facility for the Water Purification Demonstration Project (IPR Project) will be on the City Council Docket for October 27th.
- Alex Ruiz speculated that San Diego’s 5% increase in water use for the month of June 2010 vs. June 2009 might be because June 2009 was the first month for the drought restrictions and people were inundated with publicity about it.
- The city has had 126 water main breaks in the 2010 calendar year, 9 since June 9, at an average cost of $15,900 per break. There was some discussion about how events are studied post-mortem to improve future preventive measures.
- There were 21 sewer spills so far this calendar year, and most were grease- and root-related. The majority of grease-related spills occur in residential neighborhoods, not in restaurant-heavy zones, which suggests a need for better residential outreach about grease down the kitchen sink drain.
- Ex-officio member Ken Williams (San Diego County Water Authority) noted the upcoming SDCWA meeting on Thursday will consider the possible purchase of Poseidon’s desalinated water. He pointed out that the vote on Thursday is on the question to move forward with the idea. A following meeting would vote on a contract. The oversight committee agreed that this proposal should be watched and would like to invite SDCWA to make a presentation to the committee in the near future. One area of interest was how the treated desal water would be mixed with untreated SDCWA supplies, and what effect the purchase would have on City of San Diego ratepayers. Several expressed surprise that the Mayor and City Council have not spoken about the issue.
Water Conservation Data for San Diego FY 2010 Results
|Customer Group||FY 2010 vs. FY 2009|
|— Single Family||-13.6%|
|— Multi Family||-5.3%|
Single-month conservation comparing June 2010 vs. June 2009
|— Single Family||-2.1%|
|— Multi Family||+14.7%|