San Diegans know a thing or two about conserving water.
City Council’s permanent restrictions on wasting water are now in effect year-round, and residents and businesses are responding in kind, cutting water use by almost 30 percent in the past decade. But much of San Diego County is still in extreme drought, with conditions persisting or getting worse this summer. And when water supplies go down, costs go up.
With costs looking to rise again next year and the region’s ever-looming drought, San Diego businesses have had to get pretty creative to take advantage of the limited liquid resource.
Here are three ways we’ve seen businesses adapt and innovate to handle drought conditions.
As Nick Cain, director of quality at Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, stressed to us earlier this year, water is essential to the beer business. The resource is used in nearly every step of the brewing process.
Cain said breweries used to pour used water down the drain. But with the water supply dwindling and business booming, his team has had to change their procedures. Now they recirculate and recycle the water.
Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association, said the drought is turning up the pressure. “The drought elevated the level of concern pretty quickly and dramatically,” McCormick said. “Water is the next gold in California, and it’s going to be an ongoing issue. As an industry that uses a fair amount of water, it’s prudent we address it.”
For San Diego businessman Bruce Wettstein, the ongoing drought brings unlikely opportunities. Wettstein, president of Pool Services Technologies, said his five-year-old business is busier than ever. Pool Service Technologies uses reverse osmosis to treat existing pool water, helping pool owners avoid draining. The process can save up to 85 percent of the scare summer resource. Wettstein said pool owners who have used his service in the past were already water consciousness, but the drought is increasing demand for water conservation. “I think awareness has been increased,” he said.
That’s been good for business. For the first time in five years, his service is booked solid through July.
In the past, the team at Mimi Holtz’s family-run avocado farm had tried out installing wells and selling their fruit online to help fund their rising water costs. But the new strategies weren’t entirely successful, and the drought has pushed the farm’s water bill higher than ever.
“We have to make daily decisions that affect our future,” Holtz said. Decrease in water supply has frustrated farmers like Holtz, who said her family has already been through water cuts and rationing. “The question of water becomes more important every year,” she said, “and creativity is necessary to deal with it.”
They stopped drilling wells at their Escondido farm last year. “It’s really expensive to continue to drill and maintain the wells,” Holtz said, “and to keep the water coming out of the wells clean.”
As a part-time food blogger, Holtz has been invited to visit other farms across the state with the California Farm Water Coalition, a nonprofit advocating for better water policies. “To see how other farmers and communities are dealing with the situation and planning for the future is both fascinating and terrifying,” she said. “Every year is a big question mark… there is no easy answer.”