The feud between Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Attorney Mike Aguirre over Sanders’ water emergency declaration this morning continued into the City Council meeting this afternoon.

Again, Aguirre said the mayor is not acting decisively to confront the city’s water crisis, and offered up an ordinance his office first drafted in December that revamps the city’s emergency water regulations, which he called “antiquated.”

Currently, the city has four stages of water emergency conservation. They range from a stage one emergency, which calls for residents to voluntarily conserve water (which Sanders declared today); to stage four, which severely prohibits water use after a failure in the city’s water system.

In the event of a stage two or stage three emergency, residents are required to curtail their water use by, among other things, watering only during designated times and using water-saving nozzles on their hoses.

Aguirre’s proposed ordinance requires that the Water Department monitor water supply and demand on a monthly basis, and declare water emergencies based on the supply/demand balance. It would, for example, require mandatory conservation if monthly monitoring indicated a probability that the city’s demand would exceed its supply by 10 percent.

Aguirre told City Council it is a mistake for San Diego to not be moving toward mandatory conservation.

“We don’t want to be in a position of declaring an emergency, but no one is taking it seriously because we are not taking it seriously,” Aguirre said.

Sanders told Council this afternoon that he does not believe the city is at a point where mandatory water conservation is needed.

“There may be a time — perhaps early next year — when more stringent conservation measures may be called for,” Sanders said, adding that it should not be a “knee-jerk reaction.”

City Council ended up ratifying Sanders’ stage one water emergency, but not without comments.

“I think we are at the stage two now,” said Councilwoman Toni Atkins. “I think we are moving toward mandatory conservation, and I don’t think we should shirk our responsibility.”

Council also voted to schedule a public hearing on Sept. 8 on two proposed water issues: a 6.26 percent rate increase to cover the rising cost of water on the wholesale market, and a demonstration project for a system that would turn wastewater into drinking water.

Correction: This post originally incorrectly stated that a proposed water reclamation pilot project would be paid for with a 6.5-percent increase in the city’s water rates. Although there is a strong likelihood that water rates will be increased to pay for the project, a specific rate has not been identified. Last year City Council approved rate increases of 6.5 percent in each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2011 to pay for other water system infrastructure improvements.


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