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There is no shortage of water in San Diego

Freedom and technology, not restrictions and deprivation,
are the answer to low rainfall

Total Supply 2015: 617 TAF

Before 2015 Mandated Restrictions.




Total Usage 2014: 594.5 TAF 


NEW on WaterSanDiego:

See news about increasing water supply (In the News below)

   See ALERTS to comment on extended/expanded restrictions

See FACTS AND FIGURES for water supply data




Because of decades of planning and investment in technology, San Diegans have all the water we need--

but the Governor and his advisors won't let us use it


Shortage of rain? Yes.

Shortage of water? NO!


                                                          See FACTS & FIGURES for more detail





























































San Diego County Water Authority


Yet we’re being told that due to an emergency water shortage, we cannot use the water we have paid to develop. Instead, our governor and his advisors, with their "much more sophisticated view," are dictating our lifestyles, our landscapes, even our personal hygiene.

Dismissing technology, they're taking us back to buckets.


In the News


Editor's note: the following restrictions apply throughout the state of California, including San Diego, despite our water supply of almost 50% more than we are allowed to use:

Proposed Regulatory Framework for Extended Emergency Regulation for Urban Water Conservation

The State Water Board, December 21, 2015


Drought Resilient Sources of Supply Credit:

Stakeholder Proposal: Suppliers would receive a credit for desalinated seawater or indirect potable re-use (IPR) water. The credit would come in the form of a one-to-one reduction from the calculated amount of water that needs to be saved under the Emergency Regulation. A supplier could deduct all water derived from desalination or IPR from their total savings requirement. San Diego County Water Authority proposes a similar credit for Colorado River water received through long-term transfers of conserved water. 

Staff Recommendation: Provide a one-tier (four percentage point) reduction to the conservation standard of urban water suppliers using new drought resilient water supplies. The credit would apply to urban water suppliers that certify, and provide documentation upon request, that at least 4 percent of its potable supply is comprised of indirect potable reuse of coastal wastewater (the creation and use of which does not injure another legal user of water or the environment) or desalinated seawater developed since 2013. [Editor's note: The Carlsbad desalination plant alone will provide 10% of San Diego's potable water supply.] Staff does not recommend extending this credit to Colorado River water received through long-term transfer of conserved water. 


Non-potable Recycled Water Use Credit:

Stakeholder Proposal: This proposal would apply to suppliers that meet a large portion of irrigation demand with non-potable recycled water. These suppliers would be able to reduce their 2016 monthly potable water production by the ratio of non-potable recycled water use to total potable water production multiplied by their total water production and their conservation. Reducing 2016 total potable water production would have the effect of reducing the required volume of water saved.

Staff Recommendation: Staff does not recommend providing additional credit for non-potable recycled water use.  


Groundwater Credits:

Stakeholder Proposal: This set of proposals would provide credit for “sustainable” groundwater management and groundwater augmentation. Suppliers would provide verification that the groundwater supply is formally certified to meet certain eligibility requirements and then would be eligible to deduct certain groundwater use from their total potable production. In effect, the use of eligible groundwater would be counted the same as conserved water. There are four proposed credit scenarios: 1) Groundwater Banking; (2) Conjunctive Use; (3) “Sustainable” Groundwater Management; and (4) Adjudicated Basins. The proposals include requirements that would govern the use of the credits under each scenario.

Staff Recommendation: Staff does not recommend providing credits for groundwater use or management since the effect of such credits are not well-defined and are generally inconsistent with goal of conserving the state’s remaining surface and groundwater supplies during the drought. 


Regional Compliance Approach:

Stakeholder Proposal: This proposal would allow suppliers to jointly comply with their aggregated conservation standards as a single entity. Regions would be allowed to form, on a voluntary basis, based on the criteria for forming a SBx7-7 regional alliance, per Water Code Section 10608.28. A lead agency for the region would report the Regional Conservation Standard monthly to the State Water Board on behalf of the region. Each urban retail water supplier would also continue to report their individual monthly water use data. If a group as whole did not meet its regional conservation target, the suppliers would revert back to their individual requirements.

Staff Recommendation: Staff does not recommend providing an option for regional compliance because it will impede timely compliance and enforcement action by the Board and has the potential to reduce individual water supplier accountability. 


Next Steps:

  •   Comments are due on this proposed regulatory framework by January 6, 2016

  •   A draft Emergency Regulation will be released for public comment in mid-January 2016

  •   State Water Board consideration of an extended emergency regulation is anticipated in early February 2016. 


The State Water Board is interested in receiving feedback on this proposed regulatory framework. Please submit comments with the subject line: “Comments on Proposed Regulatory Framework” by email to: Kathy Frevert at by January 6, 2016.



County deserves adjustments to state water restrictions

San Diego Union Tribune, Editorial board, 11/21/15

"Under the state water board’s existing mandate, the only way for local water agencies to comply is by using less water compared to the base year of 2013. The required cutbacks range from 12 to 36 percent and are designed to reach an average statewide conservation goal of 25 percent.


"The SDCWA proposal would keep in place a conservation requirement of at least 8 percent for all local agencies during emergencies. But it would allow local agencies to meet the larger targets through a combination of conservation and sustainable local supplies such as desalination, conversion of waste water into drinking water and other forms of recycling, as well as long-term transfers of conserved water such as the transfer agreement between SDCWA and the Imperial Irrigation District for Colorado River water. 


"That is what San Diego County has been working on since 1992, when it established a long-term policy of gradually reducing reliance on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Northern California. Perhaps the golden symbol of that effort — though by no means the only component of it — is the $1 billion seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, scheduled to begin distributing 50 million gallons of drinking water every day beginning next month.


"The state water board has scheduled a workshop on all this for Dec. 7, with a Dec. 2 deadline to receive public comments. The SDCWA web site, at, includes a link for submitting comments. 


"San Diegans have proved more than willing to do their part in meeting the challenge of extreme drought and preparing for future droughts. They deserve credit for it."



Desal plant launches amid ample water

San Diego Union Tribune, Morgan Cook, 11/21/15


"The $1 billion desalination plant coming online next month in Carlsbad will fit right in with years of careful planning and investment in water supply in San Diego County.


"It will also worsen a peculiar San Diego problem amid a multi-year drought — oversupply of water.


"Unlike other parts of California, San Diego has 99 percent of the water needed for normal usage. But statewide conservation mandates have applied equally to areas that have plenty of water and those that don’t, so the result here has been water piling up unused while local water agencies raise rates to make up for lost sales.


"Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, a San Diego County Water Authority board member, said the situation is hard to explain to his constituents.


“ 'It’s real hard to tell them, "You have to let your grass die," and in the same breath you have to tell them, "We have more water than we can use,” ' he said. . . .


"Four years into the ongoing drought, San Diego County had sufficient water to meet 99 percent of normal demand without any conservation efforts. Now, with conservation and desalination, there’s water on hand and more rising in reservoirs.


“ 'We’ve been proactive, and the ratepayers have paid a premium to create reliability, and now we have the water and people are asked to cut back 25 percent,' Hall said. 'It’s been an economic impact on you for no reason.' "


WaterSanDiego editor's correction: San Diego's water supply actually far exceeds 10% over our current mandated restricted use. If we had 99% supply before desal and before government enforced restrictions, we are now at 99% plus 10% (new desal), or 109% over pre-restriction demand. But overall, San Diegans have jumped to comply with Brown's edict, and cut back water use by 25% through October. 109/75 = a water supply of 145%, 45% over what we are currently allowed to use. That number seems incredible! Regardless, thanks to decades of planning and developing technology, San Diegans have much more water than the governor will allow us to use. (Thanks to Don Billings at, for this analysis.) 


El Niño or Not, Water Use Restrictions Likely to Continue

Voice of San Diego, Ry Rivard, 10/27/15


"This spring, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered urban water users to reduce their demand by an average of 25 percent. Those restrictions expire in February, but limits on water use seem certain to continue past then – even if it rains a lot this winter because of El Niño.


"Right now, San Diego has more water available than its water agencies are allowed to sell, so local officials are arguing for the state to loosen the current restrictions. . .


"But the State Water Resources Control Board is beginning work on new regulations because it does not expect El Niño to end the drought. These new rules could be anything, including almost exactly what we have now to something stronger. How much stronger that might be, the state board has not said. That’s in part because . . . the state is trying to limit negotiations to a small group of people. . . .


"The state Water Board has repeatedly said it’s better to be safe than sorry.


"Rationing is a word that seems touchy. A spokesman for the Water Board said the state could move from its current restrictions 'to something closer to specific conservation targets' but declined to elaborate on what those might be.


"At a recent meeting, Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said she wants the current negotiations over future regulations to take place behind closed doors, in talks limited to 'water professionals' so everyone can have a 'much more sophisticated view of what we might propose. ' "


Morning Report: San Diego Is Over Saving Water

Voice of San Diego, Andrew Keatts 10/6/15


"It’s been a few months since Gov. Jerry Brown imposed emergency water cuts on urban residents, and the folks who provide all that water are eager to get back to normal.


"Ten local water agencies, including the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority, asked state regulators in a Sept. 19 letter to ease up on conservation demands if “more normal” rain and snowfall return, Ry Rivard reports.


'The state does not have the authority, nor do we think they have the reason, to mandate these permanent types of conservation requirements, it’s just not necessary,' said a County Water Authority board member, who promised a “firestorm” if the state tries to lock in current conservation measures."



    Excerpt from the 9/19/15 letter from local water agencies to the

    California State Water Resources Control Board:


    "The need for the establishment of permanent conservation regulations during non-drought periods is

     a topic of enormous public policy importance, with great potential for unintended consequences. The

     process should  not be rushed, nor adequate public input bypassed. At the meeting on August 26th,

     staff stated the State  Water Board has sufficient authority to promulgate and enforce statewide

     water conservation standards during non-emergency periods as soon as 2016 and intended to

     do so by simple declaration of this authority.


     "We disagree with this interpretation of authority and feel strongly that more time must be spent publicly

      deliberating  this assumption of need. . . .


     "We ask the State Water Board to be very clear in considering long-term objectives for water management in

      California. We recommend that the end goal should be water supply reliability and drought resiliency,

      not water conservation as an end in itself. . . . "

        Read the letter:



4 Reasons City Water Bills Keep Rising

Voice of San Diego, Ry Rivard, 9/21/15


"The city’s water department plans to increase rates by more than 40 percent in the next five years.


"By July 2020, a unit of water that today costs $4.36 will cost $6. Customers also pay meter fees, which will also rise.

So what’s driving the soaring rates?  . . .


"The price hikes are driven . . . by the cutbacks San Diegans are making because of the drought. If the city is selling less water, then the city has to charge more for each drop it sells.


"The city sold about 76 million units of water in 2014. Each unit is about 750 gallons. Next year, the city only expects to sell 64 million units because of water-use restrictions mandated by the state.


Gordon Hess, vice chairman of the Rates Oversight Committee, said he worries the city’s five-year plan is based on long-term projections that could be wrong. . . .


"The city, like the rest of San Diego County water agencies, expects to have almost all the water it needs to meet consumer demand – even if everyone uses as much water as they used last year. But the water agencies’ hands are tied by the state’s drought restrictions.


"Don Billings, a former chairman of the city’s Independent Rates Oversight Committee, told the City Council this week it needs to file a lawsuit against the state so the city doesn’t have to conserve water.


“ 'A significant portion of the requested rate increase can be called the Jerry Brown tax,' he said. 'This tax is the amount of new revenues required to replace the revenues that are lost because the governor will not let San Diego use the water that it has carefully and expensively assured would be available even today in the fourth year of the drought.'


"Those careful and expensive efforts involve efforts by the San Diego County Water Authority, the regional water importer from which the city buys about 92 percent of its water. The Water Authority helped build a desalination plant that will open this fall and has secured new supplies of water from the Colorado River – supplies that other water agencies outside of San Diego don’t have access to. . . ."


Water levels rise amid drought

San Diego Union Tribune, Morgan Cook, 9/5/15


"While the statewide drought withers farms, evaporates lakes, shortens showers and browns lawns, it’s having a surprising collateral effect in San Diego.  Water, literally, is building behind the dam.


"There are real shortages elsewhere in the state, but not here. Water supplies are at 99 percent of normal.

So the result of state-mandated cuts in usage is an abundance of water supply — billions of gallons and growing. And rates are being forced up because water suppliers have fixed costs, while conservation is costing them revenue.


"Since state-mandated conservation targets took effect in May, the county’s water providers have had to store some 13.7 billion additional gallons of water in reservoirs — enough to supply more than 100,000 typical homes for a year, according to data provided by the San Diego County Water Authority. . . .


" 'We have to meet these conservation targets, and the way we’re doing it is bludgeoning and threatening my customers,' said Gary Arant, general manager at the Valley Center Municipal Water District. “And at the same time, I know that we have all the water we need.' He said it makes no sense that water users who have funded billions of dollars of improvements to supplies and storage in San Diego County can’t take advantage of them. 'We don’t have the same degree of water supply shortages that the rest of the state does,' Arant said.


"The mandatory conservation didn’t just save water. It tamped down on revenue from water bills, forcing many suppliers to raise rates to cover the fixed costs of operating their systems. The City of San Diego’s public utilities department plans to raise rates 17 percent in the next year, in part to make up for the losses from conservation.


"Some local water officials say ratepayers should be reaping the rewards of local planning and investment: more stable rates, longer showers, greener grass. Instead, they are being forced by the state to suffer as though water may stop flowing from their faucets at any moment, water officials say. . .


"The county’s stored water levels are rising because ratepayers planned ahead, building a desalination plant, expanding reservoir space, lining canals and building recycled water infrastructure. . . .


Read more:


San Diego Union Tribune, Bradley J. Fikes, 8/11/15 

"San Diego County and other parts of the state may get some flexibility in complying with California's rigorous water conservation mandate, Gov. Jerry Brown hinted Tuesday.


"Meeting at San Diego City Hall with local political, business and water industry leaders, Brown said conservation would continue with some modifications once his emergency mandate expires in February. . . .


"Since details of the mandatory conservation program were announced in May, numerous water agencies in San Diego County have said they are hurt by inflexible rules that don't account for water reliability programs, such as the desalination plant soon to open in Carlsbad. 


"While not making any specific promises, Brown said he understood that changes need to be made as the state makes stepped-up conservation permanent."




Sacramento Bee, Jim Miller, 6/13/15

    'The Brown administration is pushing late-emerging budget legislation to let state officials force the consolidation of troubled water systems . . . The proposal, though, has generated intense opposition from water agencies and local government groups. . . . the Association of California Water Agencies and other local government entities objected to the proposal being heard outside the regular, months-long legislative process, which they said 'offers more transparency and safeguards over the course of several months. Instead, this proposal is being rapidly moved through the budget trailer bill process that does not provide adequate time for stakeholder comment or public input in the span of just a few short weeks' " . . .



The politicians:

The Sacramento Bee 12/7/15: "Jerry Brown: ‘Never underestimate the coercive power of the central state.’ "​


San Jose Mercury News 1/31/14:  "Gov. Brown says flush less as California struggles with drought."


The New York Times 4/1/15:  "We're in a new era," Brown said. "The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that's going to be a thing of the past."



The facts:

San Diego Union Tribune, Teri Figueroa, 7/17/15 

"Addressing North county business leaders Thursday, the head of the San Diego County Water Authority repeated a message she's delivered for months in the midst of California's epic drought: San Diego has a stable water supply but has to comply with state cuts anyway. 


" 'In San Diego, there is no water drought. There is a regulatory drought,' Water Authority General Manager Maureen Stapleton told a crowd of about 200 people at the first North County Water Summit, held Thursday at the Vista Civic Center. . . .


"She said the county has 99 percent of the water it needs because it draws its supply from a variety of sources and has strong conservation programs. . . . California's mandatory water restrictions don't take that into account.


"Stapleton highlighted the county's diversification of water sources--from recycled water to the soon-to-be completed desalination plant--and said using differing sources has significantly improved water reliability in the region."



San Diego Union Tribune, Bradley J. Fikes, 6/19/15

"A . . .  series of storms last month has firmed up supplies on the Colorado . . . The gigantic reservoir [Lake Mead] supplies most of the water used in San Diego County, along with the rest of Southern California, and Nevada and Arizona. . . . The [U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Lake Mead] sees no shortage in 2016 or 2017."


San Diego Union Tribune, Dan McSwain, 4/18/15

"For San Diego, the cruel irony is that the shortage in most of the state simply doesn’t exist here . . .

Since the 1990s, the county’s water agencies have spent at least $3.5 billion to secure supplies that state government or Los Angeles couldn’t grab. Please note that this money came from higher bills to local consumers. We expanded reservoirs; built a giant desalination plant in Carlsbad; and negotiated a historic trade in which we paid to reduce waste for Imperial farmers so they could share their allocation from the Colorado River."


Pomerado News 3/27/14

"[Poway] gets its drinking water from the San Diego County Water Authority, which contracts with the Southern California Metropolitan Water District. The local water authority has said that it has enough water available this year despite the fact that there will likely be no deliveries from the State Water Project in Northern California."



The governor has, in essence, told us to “Jump!”

We can do better than just reply “How high?”   

See the Action page for more information.



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