GrokSurf's San Diego

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

“Water conservation ethic” is recommended for San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 3, 2013


A greater emphasis on water conservation was one of the recommendations in the Final Report of the Water Policy Implementation Task Force that was delivered to the San Diego City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NR&C) at its September 25 meeting.

The Task Force was formed by the City Council in April 2012 to recommend ways to implement the city’s 2011 Comprehensive Water Policy.

The most significant recommendations, according to the report, were:

Water Conservation

  • Establishing an ongoing program to create a “water conservation ethic” among the general public
  • Modifying the City’s drought alert standards
  • Promoting use of water-conserving landscaping
  • Strengthening requirements for retrofitting homes with water conserving fixtures at resale
  • Using new technology to facilitate tracking by property owners of indoor and outdoor water use
  • Implementing incentives for sustainable development, including for reductions in water use

Water Recycling and Reuse

  • Replenishing groundwater basins with storm water
  • Promoting low-impact development to reduce storm water runoff
  • Expanding production of potable water through recycling, in accordance with the City’s 2012 Recycled Water Study
  • Supporting legislation to facilitate both direct and indirect potable reuse
  • Facilitating use of graywater for irrigation

Rate Structure

  • Modifying the current tiered rate structure to incentivize conservation
  • Moving toward water budgeting for irrigation accounts

Innovation and Technology

  • Reducing water loss throughout the city system
  • Leveraging current water treatment technology to assist development of new related technologies
  • Applying existing technologies to reduce energy consumption in the water distribution system
  • Taking embedded energy implications into account in future water supply decisions
  • Establishing clear guidelines for on-site wastewater treatment and reuse facilities
  • Accelerating retrofitting of water meters citywide with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology


The Final Report was also reviewed last month by the Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) at its September 16 meeting and a number of comments for NR&C were documented. In particular, IROC emphasized that the overall financial implications of the recommendations were not identified and need to be considered.

In addition, IROC highlighted a potential problem with Recommendation C9, Retrofit at Resale (“Modify Municipal Code Section 147.04 to require retrofit at resale of all plumbing fixtures to water conserving fixtures, including replacing toilets that utilize greater than 1.6 gallons per flush”).

Explaining the problem, IROC wrote that “The City Attorney’s Office is currently analyzing whether changes to the City’s Municipal Code regarding toilet retrofits could cause the City to lose the benefit of the “grandfather clause” in SB 407. Without the benefit of the grandfather clause, SB 407 would require all City business and residents to replace non-compliant toilets whether or not the property is sold or remodeled.”

After discussion, NR&C unanimously accepted the Final Report and sent it to be docketed for a full City Council meeting in December. In the meanwhile NR&C will assemble an internal working group to prioritize recommendations for the full Council to consider. In addition, the IBA (Independent Budget Analyst) was directed to “produce a matrix of WPTIF recommendations that provides information concerning if there are budgetary impacts to each recommendation…” so that the full Council will have some idea about the financial implications.

(U-T San Diego briefly notes the Task Force report but mistakenly says “Later this fall the council Natural Resources and Culture Committee will hold a hearing on those recommendations…”)

The complete final report is in the NR&C agenda packet (Item 8), but the copy on IROC’s agenda is easier to read.

UPDATE OCTOBER 4, 2013: The Public Utilities Department (PUD) worked closely with the Task Force during the year and also submitted comments on the recommendations. PUD’s written response said “Generally speaking the Department agreed with the majority of the recommendations, but some recommendations we cannot support. They have some potential implications that may not be in the best interest of the financial health of the Department, provide adequate consideration of our customers’ water rates, or may not be able to implement.” Click here to see PUD’s written response.


One Response to ““Water conservation ethic” is recommended for San Diego”

  1. […] “Water conservation ethic” recommended for San Diego:  A task force formed in 2012 to recommend ways to implement San Diego's 2011 water policy has released their report, which makes several recommendations, including establishing an ongoing program to create a “water conservation ethic” among the general public.  Read more from GrokSurf's San Diego blog here:  “Water conservation ethic” recommended for San Diego […]

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