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San Diego’s City Council today unanimously approved specific lawn watering days for all city residents, a step several council members described as being a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

Starting June 1, residents whose addresses end in odd numbers can water their lawns on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Even-numbered houses would be permitted to irrigate Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Businesses, condos, apartments and homeowners associations would be allowed to water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Regulations permit residents to water for 10 minutes on specified days and only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., when less water is lost to evaporation. Residents can only wash their cars between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. and must use a bucket and hose with a shut-off nozzle.

Starting in November, city residents will only be allowed to water their lawns one day per week. Mayor Jerry Sanders has the authority to designate that day but has not yet.

A majority of council members said the designated lawn days should serve as an interim step until the city can develop a better methodology for encouraging long-term water conservation in the face of tightening supplies.

Sanders and city water officials pushed a water-cuts plan earlier this year that was based on residents’ historic consumption, they argued that the plan was the best option given their timeframe to implement it. That plan has been tabled because supply cuts weren’t as bad as expected.

The council majority said the city should use its reprieve to refine that strategy. Council members Kevin Faulconer, Tony Young, Carl DeMaio, Todd Gloria and Donna Frye said they wanted to consider how water rates could be changed to encourage conservation. Some water districts set steeply tiered rates so residential users pay increasingly high rates as they use more.

That led to a testy exchange between DeMaio and city water officials, who say they must first complete a study about water rates before they could be changed. DeMaio said he wanted a commitment from water officials about when the study would be complete. They wouldn’t give one. Alex Ruiz, the water department’s assistant director, said he first needed to talk to the consultant leading the study.

“You’re asking for a drop dead date,” Ruiz told DeMaio. “Once I put that out there I’m going to be held to that.”

The issue will be discussed at a council committee hearing later this month.

“We need more accountability here,” DeMaio told water officials. “We keep talking about wanting to have comprehensive solutions, but you keep presenting Band-Aids.”

ROB DAVIS

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