GrokSurf's San Diego

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

What else can San Diego do to conserve water?

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 13, 2010

Santee Lakes, filled with recycled water since 1961

We’ve been hearing it for some time now. Recycling is good, but of everything that has been considered for improving San Diego’s water supply situation, conservation is the easiest, quickest, most productive and cost-effective way to do it.

According to a recent Equinox Center report, conservation has been able to replace about 10% of the region’s potential demand. For the last year, San Diego accomplished this through a temporary reduction in allowable landscape watering and a campaign encouraging individuals to reduce indoor water use by taking shorter showers, flushing less often, not running water while brushing teeth, etc.

Assuming those rules will be made permanent and not expire as a one-time symbolic nod at our unsure water supply, in the future, conservation will nonetheless experience diminishing returns after the easiest and least costly options are implemented. We probably could do better if we had more widespread compliance with mandates now in place, but if we’re going to conserve meaningful amounts of water on a permanent basis, we can’t just make half-hearted temporary gestures. What else can we do? If there are any plans to gather a master list of conservation ideas for our community to consider, here’s an early contribution:

  1. Require all residential swimming pools to be covered within 5 years
  2. Lawns permitted only in public parks
    • Prohibit lawns on any new commercial or residential development effective immediately
    • Existing commercial or residential lawns eliminated or replaced with drought-tolerant plants by the year 2020. Possible variant: residential front yard lawns banned (typically for show only) but small back yard lawns permitted (more likely to be used)

  3. Permanent ban on hosing down driveways, sidewalks, and other non-permeable surfaces unless required for sanitation/safety reasons
  4. Eliminate rules that specify when and how much landscape watering can be done and instead implement water pricing tiers that allow reasonable baseline use, promote conservation, and penalize waste
  5. Provide financial incentives to install rooftop rainfall runoff capture systems and greywater recycling systems

Agree? Disagree? What would you put on the list?


5 Responses to “What else can San Diego do to conserve water?”

  1. Great ideas, George!

    At Surfrider, we know that residents can cut their monthly water use in 1/2 by removing their lawn, and implementing an Ocean Friendly Garden. We’re offering a 3-part course:

    Basics Course: August 24th (Encinitas Community Center) 6-9 pm
    Hands On Workshop (HOW): September 26th, 11-2pm. Location TBD, but will be based on attendees garden from Basics Course.
    Garden Assistance Program (GAP): October 24th, 10-4pm. Location TBD.

    $40 for the three-part course AND includes the official Ocean Friendly Gardens book!

    An Ocean Friendly Garden also restores natural habitat, so residents can expect lots of wildlife in their gardens, including birds and butterflies.

  2. Burt Freeman said

    Well, George, we really don’t know how much of the conservation savings have been due to carrots. sticks or an abnormal “normal” rainfall year. We shall see.

    Yes, it would be great if landscapes were all Xeriscaped. Unfortunately, this is not usually a trivial undertaking. It needs to be professionally planned and can be/is expensive. It would be neat if there were a significant incentive program in place. There are several demonstration gardens (such as the Conservation Garden at Cuyamacha, and the landscaping around the Water Authority headquarters). I know that the Authority is planning additional demonstration gardens.

    In general, I’m a carrots, rather than a sticks, person. I also am an advocate of cost/benefits analysis; if it doesn’t figure out, it will not last. “House built on firm foundation, it will stand, yeah, yeah”.

  3. Mandy said

    Toilet to tap..or if you rather, turf (savings) to tap. This is an ‘untapped’ resource for good water. No more golf courses and incentives to retro all of them to use ONLY recycled water. It’s insane to use potable water on recreation, most of it private, land.

  4. Don said

    To me, relaxing the regulations on grey-water systems and reclaming the majority of water currently being cleaned up at wastewater treatment plants and dumped into the ocean offer the best chance of using our precious water resources more effectively. Although harvesting rainwater from rooftops sounds good, since historically nearly all of our rainfall falls in 4 months, there is virtually nothing to harvest during our dry summers when you need it.

  5. jessedziedzic said

    Your precisely right on this writing..

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