San Diego Sets Example for Water Conservation, Curbs Consumption by 11%

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Photo via StormyDog via Flickr CC

Good news for water thanks to San Diego. The city is home to over 1.25 million people, all of whom are feeling the pinch of water restrictions after a drought emergency was called last year. San Diego set a goal of an 8% reduction in water use, which they flew past with a fantastic 11% reduction during the past fiscal year. "A year ago, I urged all San Diegans to make water conservation a conscious part of their everyday lives," Mayor Jerry Sanders said. "They've clearly listened." The only problem now is whether or not that is nearly enough of a reduction to weather a water shortage, and if other cities will start following suit.Last year, the county water authority announced a reduction in how much wholesale water would be provided to cities, leading local water agencies to set mandatory restrictions on water use. For a city pulling water out of an already water-strapped delta hundreds of miles away, requiring smarter water use should be a matter of course.

According to Sign On San Diego, the San Diego County Water Authority will announce regional water-use figures for fiscal 2010 next week. And though the original goal was surpassed, restrictions won't be lifted. Conservation is expected to continue indefinitely, as it logically should.

"Now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball," Sanders said. "Whether it's taking shorter showers or shutting off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth, everyone must continue to make water conservation part of daily life."

While shorter showers and water-savvy dish-washing methods are helpful, that's not where the real water waste happens. Around 30% of a household's water use goes to landscaping. Wasteful household water use mainly revolves around lawns. Next on the list of things that boost a water footprint are habits like taking baths and hanging on to toilets with too-big tanks.

But looking at the bigger picture, it isn't necessarily even households that should get the focus, but rather businesses such as agriculture and manufacturing. Farms use 70-80% of the water in the United States. If San Diego really wants to curb its water use, it should shift from scolding Joe Plumber to requiring businesses to account for and report water use, then start trimming the fat. A recent estimate showed that state-wide water conservation among California businesses would save enough water to supply San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Still, an 11% reduction for one city over one year is quite impressive. We're hoping other cities experiencing water shortages take lessons from what's working in San Diego and apply it to their own municipalities.

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