A new study on water consumption in the San Diego region has conservationists renewing a call for mandatory restrictions on residential water use, including ramping up enforcement efforts and considering implementation of currently temporary measures on a permanent basis.
The "H2Overview" report, prepared by non-profit think tank Equinox Center, studied water use across San Diego's 23 distribution networks and found a near-universal increase in demand for water per resident during the past five years, despite an increasingly severe drought and increasing regulations regarding water use, such as San Diego's restrictions on landscape maintenance.
Some of the worst offenders on the list included wealthier areas with more landscaping per capita to maintain, where non-native plants have demanded extra water to survive the exceptionally hot and dry climate in recent years.
Santa Fe Irrigation District, servicing the pricey enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, saw a 30 percent increase in water demand during a time the state is urging (to this point through only voluntary efforts) a 20 percent reduction in use. The district's residents used more than five times as much water on a daily basis as the average county inhabitant.
"Water-use trends uncovered in Equinox Center’s report don’t surprise us,” Matt O’Malley, representing local conservation group San Diego Coastkeeper, said in a February 17 release. “This is why Coastkeeper has long advocated for mandatory conservation measures to change water-use habits — rules that should become the new normal for the region and that cities must enforce."
The Equinox report notes that encouraging conservation is one of the lowest-cost methods of dealing with the region's water shortage. Water recycling and desalination, two measures in some stage of local development, are some of the costliest.
Still, the report stops short of the permanent restrictions on water use Coastkeeper is advocating. Equinox points instead to better monitoring and reporting standards, stating the belief that "What gets measured, gets managed better."
The group also reiterates suggestions from their last report in 2012, calling for stronger "green" building standards in new development, tiered pricing to encourage voluntary conservation, and continued public education campaigns such as the ones currently being employed on local broadcast media.