During the last few months as we’ve increased our call for voluntary water conservation, we’ve seen and heard some people respond by saying they won’t conserve because they feel they’re being asked to save water to facilitate new growth.

That’s not why we’re asking people to increase voluntary water conservation. We need to conserve more now for two reasons: First, we have some significant near-term water challenges presented by weather and regulatory conditions that require immediate reductions in water demand. Construction you see today already has been permitted and approved and factored into water supply projections, and stopping future development that would not come online for several years or longer will not help the need to reduce water use in the next year or two.

The second reason we’re asking people to increase their water use efficiency is because it makes sense for our region, period. We don’t live in the rain-rich tropics or above a bountiful groundwater basin — we live in a semi-arid region where water resources are scarce, and we are always susceptible to droughts. We need to adopt a water-wise mindset. As a community living in near-desert climate conditions at the end of an increasingly challenging imported water delivery system, we always need to use water as efficiently as possible because it makes it easier for all of us to live and thrive.

While the region has done much over the last 20 years to improve its efficiency, we can and must make a lot more progress. That’s especially true outdoors, where simple-to-fix problems such as over-watered landscapes or leaky irrigation systems waste billions of gallons of water every year (not to mention contribute to urban runoff polluting our watersheds, beaches and bays).

For the future, the Water Authority and its member retail water agencies have invested billions of dollars to secure reliable new local and imported water supplies to help meet growing demands and to build large-scale water infrastructure that will provide the region with better resources and flexibility to cope with drought or emergencies. The seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad the Coastal Commission recently approved will be an important step in diversifying our water supplies. There are other options that are being pursued to develop local water supplies, too. For example, the Water Authority just completed construction of three brackish groundwater wells to help the city of Oceanside triple the production of its desalter facility by 2009. And the Water Authority has set a regional goal of tripling the use of recycled water by 2020.

It’s important that we continue these efforts to improve our supplies and facilities, especially when you consider that two-thirds of our region’s future growth will be generated locally by our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters (locally developed growth is the difference between local births and local deaths).

In the meantime, this region needs to embrace increased water conservation in the way this region has embraced energy conservation. Everyone reducing their use a little can make a big difference in our water supply reliability.

— KEN WEINBERG

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