Proposal would bring relief to North County water agencies

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – State Water Resources Control Board staff Tuesday proposed a four percentage point reduction in water conservation mandates for San Diego County agencies that receive water from the new desalination plant in Carlsbad.

The $1 billion Claude "Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant was dedicated one week ago and is expected to provide around 50 million gallons of drinking water a day at full output, roughly 10 percent of the region’s supply.

After Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to reduce water consumption by 25 percent in face of the drought, state water officials established specific conservation goals for individual water agencies and regions. In November, Brown called for the regulations to be extended into October of next year, should drought conditions persist.

The State Water Resources Control Board has been receiving input from various stakeholders, and today staff issued a report with its recommendations on the suggestions that have been received. Regarding desalination, the agency is proposing a four-point reduction in state targets for water districts that can show that 4 percent of its supply comes from desalinated seawater, in projects developed since 2013 — the year construction began on the Carlsbad facility.

If approved by the water board, the statewide decrease in water savings would be 0.6 percent, according to a staff estimate. Approval would bring welcome relief to North County water agencies stuck with the toughest, and hardest-to-hit, mandates.

Customers of the Rainbow Municipal and Valley Center Municipal districts, Santa Fe Irrigation district and Fallbrook Public Utilities District are all required to reduce water use by 36 percent over the comparable month in 2013. The city of Poway and Olivenhein Municipal mandates are 32 percent.

The city of San Diego, the larger distributor of water in the region, has to reduce consumption by 16 percent. Dana Friehauf, water resources manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, said SDCWA officials were reviewing the proposed revisions, but appreciates the staff efforts.

"We remain committed to ensuring that a potential extension of the state regulation provides a more sustainable and equitable approach to managing this drought,” Friehauf said. "We will continue working closely with our member agencies to assess the elements of today’s proposed regulatory framework and their impacts on the San Diego region’s 3.2 million residents and $218 billion economy.”

A request from the Water Authority to have the credit extended to Colorado River water was denied. The state board will accept comments on the recommendations through Jan. 6.

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