The Morning Report
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Last week, two important things happened that will help San Diego County’s water supply situation in 2008: It rained, and the San Diego County Water Authority took a significant step toward increasing the region’s water supply in case our normal supplies come up short in the near future.

First, I need to make it clear that while every little bit of rain we get helps, rain alone — even torrential amounts of rain and snow around the state and the West over the winter and into next spring — will not be enough to solve our near-term water supply challenges. We require several years of wet weather to replenish reservoirs and other storage supplies that have been reduced by extremely dry conditions. On top of that, court-ordered pumping restrictions on the State Water Project that are set to begin later this month will reduce the SWP’s ability to convey snow and rain runoff from the Sierra Nevada mountains to 25 million Californians, including those of us in San Diego County.

Therefore, it’s vital that the region’s water agencies continue to take thoughtful, measured steps to address our evolving water supply conditions. With this in mind, the Water Authority is working to arrange short-term water transfer contracts to augment existing supplies as part of its Drought Management Plan. (For more information on the plan, click here.) The Water Authority is negotiating with several water districts and other potential suppliers in northern and central California to secure up to 30,000 acre-feet of additional water supplies for 2008. (An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough to supply two families of four for a year.)

But even with a wet winter and transfers to augment our water supplies, all water users — residents, businesses and public agencies — need to increase their efforts to use water as efficiently as possible in our homes and workplaces. Every drop of water we save now will help reduce the risk of supply shortages over the next few years.

The Water Authority is doing its part by significantly increasing its public outreach efforts to boost awareness of and participation in voluntary conservation. The Water Authority, our 24 member agencies, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California also are providing increased funding for residential and commercial conservation programs, such as rebates on efficient clothes washers, toilets, artificial turf and more.

The Water Authority, with the support of its member agencies, has launched the “20-Gallon Challenge” campaign, which calls for everyone to help us reduce our regional water use by 20 gallons per person per day. An extensive list of conservation tips, many of which are free and easy to do, is available for residents and businesses at www.20gallonchallenge.com.

We encourage residents to visit 20gallonchallenge.com to make a voluntary pledge to save water, and encourage businesses and associations to go there as well to find out how they can help raise awareness of, and participation in, this important effort.

By taking these voluntary water-savings actions now, we can individually choose to address our near-term water challenges in a way that works for each of us. If we do not, we greatly increase the odds that future water use choices will be made for us, whether we like them or not.

— KEN WEINBERG

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