GrokSurf's San Diego

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

San Diego water use ordinance on City Council agenda

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 4, 2010

[Updated on November 9]

San Diego City Councilperson Donna Frye’s proposal to enact a tougher water use ordinance is on the consent agenda for the City Council meeting this coming Tuesday, November 9. This proposed ordinance is a weakened version of Frye’s original proposal which was to make the City’s Drought Level 2 restrictions permanent.

The key feature of the current Drought Level 2 rule limits both the time of day as well as which 3 days and how many minutes each week residents may water their landscaping. Frye’s original proposal would have made those restrictions standard operating procedure (permanent) for the City.

After being endorsed by the Independent Rates Oversight Committee, the proposal then encountered strong political opposition that forced Frye to water down the proposal before it went to the Natural Resources and Culture Committee. The result: the key three-days-per-week/minutes per day watering restriction will not apply when there’s no declared emergency. That restriction will be made only when a Drought Level 2 declaration is in effect. You can see how it changed by comparing both versions of the proposal in this report I wrote last September.

The weaker restriction, that watering won’t be permitted during the hottest times of the day, did not encounter as much opposition and remains in the default permanent rules section of the proposed ordinance.

The removal of the stronger permanent restriction is probably why the proposal made it to the consent agenda where the assumption is that it will pass with little or no debate. [Nov 9 update: sure enough, the Council passed the item without debate; Councilperson DeMaio called it necessary “behavior modification” and Emerald praised the Apt. Association for help in promoting it]

Unfortunately the introduction to the ordinance in Tuesday’s City Council Docket (item #58) doesn’t accurately describe the changed proposal. Apparently written for the original proposal, the intro still says “This ordinance makes Drought Response Level 2 water use restrictions which are currently temporary, permanent….” That’s likely just an editing oversight, but for the casual reader it will create the impression that the ordinance is stronger than it is. The fact is that under this ordinance the City Council can still vote to end the Level 2 emergency declaration, and they likely will when the County Water Authority eventually rolls back its drought alert

[Nov 9: The press is writing headlines based on the incorrect docket description and is reporting Level 2 restrictions as permanent. As for the eventual rollback of Level 2 restrictions, here’s the beginning of the process where MWD removes restrictions, then the County Water Authority removes the drought level alert, and finally the City removes the Level 2 alert]


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