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Rules to Save Water Expected Countywide

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Half of San Diego County’s water agencies have declared “Stage II” alerts that direct customers to reduce water use through a series of common-sense approaches, and the remaining distribution agencies are expected to adopt the alerts by the end of May, according to the County Water Authority.

On April 12, the Water Authority, which has no direct power to limit water use, urged the member agencies to adopt stricter regulations that include limits on when and how San Diegans can use water.

The Stage II restrictions generally limit when residents can water lawns or fill swimming pools. Restaurants are ordered to serve water only upon request, and use of ornamental fountains is prohibited, as is hosing down driveways and sidewalks.

Tuesday was the voluntary deadline for declaring the alerts, but so far only half the agencies have heeded the call. However, Water Authority officials believe the remaining 10 agencies, including the city of San Diego, will soon adopt mandatory conservation.

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The remaining agencies are scheduled to hold hearings on the issue by the end of May, according to Bill Jacoby, a water resources specialist with the Water Authority .

“Practically all of the agencies have (water-use) ordinances on the books, and they’re now in the process of getting them implemented,” Jacoby said.

Nearly all have adopted four-step alert ordinances that parallel a master ordinance that was developed by the Water Authority to make the county’s conservation effort more cohesive, Jacoby said. “I don’t know of any other county in California that has done that,” he said.

Water Authority officials declined to comment Tuesday on Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley’s proposed water rationing program, which is to be unveiled today during a press conference.

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“No one here is able to say what they’ll be doing up there because we haven’t seen anything yet,” Water Authority spokesman Jim Melton said. “But (true) rationing is a rarity in California.”

San Diego County should have an adequate supply of water if residents embrace mandatory prohibitions against waste that are incorporated in Stage II, Melton said. The prohibitions should cut total water use by about 10%, he said.

Additionally, the distribution agencies are prepared to move quickly to tighten restrictions if the drought worsens, Melton said. Each has a “four-stage program, and Stage III is more severe than II, and phase four is very, very restrictive,” Melton said.

The third and fourth phases range from tougher conservation rules to outright cuts in water delivered to commercial and industrial customers and a halt in the installation of new meters.

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Later this year, the Water Authority will begin a media campaign aimed at alerting San Diegans to the fact that conservation is now mandatory in most water districts, Jacoby said. The campaign will explain why the program is necessary and why conservation methods--such as watering lawns at night--reduce the amount of water lost through evaporation.

WATER RATIONING PLANS Status report on Stage II water rationing declarations by member agencies of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Agency Status Have Adopted Rationing Bueno Colorado Hearing today De Luz Heights MWD Carlsbad MWD Hearing May 8 Fallbrook PUD Del Mar Hearing May 14 Helix WD Escondido Hearing today National City Poway Hearing late Tuesday Oceanside Rincon Del Diablo MWD Hearing May 22 Olivenhain MWD San Diego Hearing May 14 Otay WD Santa Fe ID Hearing Monday Padre Dam MWD Vallecitos WD Hearing Monday or May 21 Rainbow MWD Valley Center MWD Hearing May 21 Ramona MWD Yuima MWD Agricultural Dist. San Dieguito MWD South Bay ID

Source: County Water Authority

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