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What the drought means for us Jose Lopez | Sat, Feb 01 2014 12:00 PM

 Governor Brown's recent declaration of a statewide drought emergency may have you a little nervous, so I would like to take the time to let you know how the state’s current water supply status impacts San Diego, and particularly the Otay Water District.

There is no denying that last year was one of the driest on record for California. This year could be even drier, and 11 of the past 14 years have been dry in the Colorado River basin. A third year with limited rain and snow will draw down several key reservoirs serving San Diego County going into 2015, but for now the San Diego region is not anticipating the need for extraordinary water conservation measures.

Our region is not as impacted by the drought as much as other parts of the state since San Diegans have already invested heavily in conservation, infrastructure improvements, and water supply diversification such as groundwater, water recycling, and transitional storage. As an example, per capita water use has declined from more than 200 gallons per person per day to about 150 gallons over the past decade. Total potable water use in our region was also less in 2013 than it was in 1990, even with a population increase of approximately 30 percent over that period.
Our preparation is part of the reason why our water supplies are more reliable than other parts of the state. For example, significant investments were made toward the conservation-and-transfer programs of the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003. The lining of the All American Canal in the Imperial Valley saves 68,000 acre feet of water each year. For conservation measures such as these, San Diego receives water transfers from the Colorado River. In 2014, these transfers will provide San Diego with approximately 180,000 acre feet of water, or enough water to supply 360,000 homes. Other improvements include the expansion of Diamond Valley Lake in southwest Riverside County, which has doubled the region’s storage capacity and allows for water to be stored from wet winters for dry years like this. We have also expanded San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside.

Through his proclamation, Governor Brown has directed the Department of Water Resources and other state agencies to take all necessary actions to prepare for drought conditions, including calls for increased water conservation. This declaration will help many communities in Northern and Central California facing immediate shortages, and we will continue to do our part to save water.Since water conservation is a way of life for San Diegans, our region is already a leader in many ways.

Periodic drought is a fact of life in Southern California and San Diegans have risen to the challenge before and we are confident that all customers will continue to do their part to conserve, remain mindful of waste, and we encourage everyone take advantage of money saving rebates offered by their local water agency. Water suppliers in our region will continue to closely monitor winter and early spring weather. As a local water supplier, we will be vigilant to safeguard your water supply now and into the foreseeable future.

Lopez is president of the Board of Directors Otay Water District.


CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, it was incorrectly stated in a previous version of this story that San Diegans have already invested heavily in conservation, infrastructure improvements, and water supply diversification such as groundwater, water recycling, and seawater desalination.

San Diegans have not invested in seawater desalination but in transitional storage, such as Diamond Valley Lake, San Vicente Reservoir, and the Olivenhain Reservoir.

The Star-News regrets the error.

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