The Morning Report
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So something interesting has come up.

You may remember recently there was a flurry of warnings and press conferences about the precarious state of our water supply.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre advised that the City Council and mayor immediately declare a Stage 2 watch about the issue.

The mayor refused and responded his own way. He asked residents to conserve, warned that they might see shortages and mandatory restrictions and imploring them to embrace “voluntary water conservation practices.”

Here’s part of what he said at the time:

  • We’ve distributed a fact sheet this morning that innumerates a number of ways in which citizens and businesses alike can do this. …
  • My call today is purely voluntary and I do not believe it yet has to be formalized by a declaration of emergency under our municipal code.

Sanders later released a press statement praising the California Restaurant Association for its participation in a voluntary move to stop automatically serving customers tap water and explaining why in some handy little cards.

The projection for the year ahead is tough. There is going to be less water available to the Water Authority and consequently to agencies like the City. We need to start saving water now in order to ensure that we’ll continue to have adequate supplies in the months ahead. The Restaurant Association’s “upon request” water service policy and education effort is another great step in this effort.

Actually, the projection for the year ahead may be a bit more than just “tough.”

In the newly released 2005 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, there’s an interesting little discussion about water (emphasis added):

The potential for drought and the reduced availability of imported water could have an adverse impact on the City’s economic growth. The San Diego Municipal Code provides that the Mayor, upon the recommendation of the Director of the Water Department, is authorized to determine the appropriate water conservation stages, if any. It was the advice of the Director, which was accepted by the Mayor, to declare a stage 1 (voluntary compliance) water watch.

So what is a Stage 1 water watch?

Stage 1 applies during periods when the possibility exists that the City of San Diego Water Department will not be able to meet all of the water demands of its customers. All elements of Stage 2 shall during Stage 1 apply on a voluntary basis only.

A Stage 2 watch would mean residents would have to comply with a schedule for watering their lawns and restaurants would be strictly prohibited from serving water automatically. Residents could also potentially be punished for spraying their sidewalks and tennis courts.

I suppose the mayor’s “voluntary” recommendations are consistent with a Stage 1 watch. But why wouldn’t he also announce that he’d “declared” a Stage 1 watch. After all, can you declare something without actually, you know, declaring it?

And here’s the weird part. I just called Fred Sainz, the mayor’s spokesman, and asked about all this.

I read him the part about the mayor declaring a Stage 1 watch.

He said “That’s not true.”

I asked why it was in the city’s financial report then.

“I don’t know.”

He said he’d get back to me.

SCOTT LEWIS

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