Marisela Monroy Ramirez waters plants at Atkins Nursery. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

It rained almost two inches over Monday night in certain parts of the San Diego region, but the drought is not over. In fact, Jeff Stephenson, water resources manager at San Diego County Water Authority, said residents should consider turning off their sprinklers for the next seven days.

Of the six levels of emergency actions taken during a drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday moved California from the first to the second level. That means local water suppliers must act like supplies have dipped by at least 10 to 20 percent, as CalMatters explained. 

But he isn’t requiring everybody to cut water use by the same amount across the board. This time he’s letting cities and jurisdictions trigger their local plans for action during drought prepared back in 2020.

That’s welcome news to San Diego, which has been celebrating its “drought-proof” water supplies since the latest bout of exceedingly dry conditions ensued last June. 

“That’s what water agencies were asking for instead of mandatory, statewide cuts. You had us develop these tools, let us use them,” Stephenson said.

The first test of those 2020 so-called water shortage contingency plans is now. The Water Authority won’t be the one dictating how each of its 24 water purchasers (representing cities and regions) advise customers to conserve water. Instead, San Diego cities would independently tighten water use under those drought response plans.

The city of San Diego, for instance, has had permanent water restrictions in place for all customers since 2016 to promote conservation. And there could be more required conservation as the city reviews Newsom’s order.

The State Water Resources Control Board is also reviewing Newsom’s call to ban irrigation of landscaping or ornamental turf and grass on large industrial or commercial properties. That decision could come down in late May. 

The governor could decide to make changes to his executive order at any time, for instance, if it rains a lot between now and May. 

Stephenson isn’t hopeful. The reservoirs and mountain snowpack, which feed the main rivers that quench California’s thirst, are so low already and there’s so little time left in the rainy season that it’s likely the state won’t pull out of the drought by summertime, he said. 

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