Water Use

You have printed several stories and carried several letters in the last few weeks on the subject of San Diego's water shortage. While your articles have been accurate, it is the "Letters to the Editor" that have struck the real heart of this problem. It's more than water.

One letter asked how the City Council can approve the construction of more new homes while we face a water shortage. It's a legitimate question that deserves an answer.

But first, let's rephrase the question, because houses don't use water, people do. The real question: Is it wise to continue providing homes for people?

Recent newspaper reports quote the County Water Authority as saying that new construction accounts for only 2% to 3% of the 15% we need to save under Stage 3. Halting the construction of new homes would provide minimal relief, and San Diego residents would still have to reduce water consumption by 12% to 13%.

If we pursue a 2% to 3% savings by eliminating the construction of all new homes, we will simultaneously eliminate 40,000 construction jobs and shut down an industry that annually contributes $16 billion in wages to the San Diego regional economy. Also, don't forget the subsequent impact on construction-related industries such as banking, advertising, legal and the less obvious neighborhood stores and small businesses that would lose sales and contracts under this scenario. I don't believe for a minute that anybody wants that to happen or feels that it is a fair trade-off for the 2% to 3% of water use that we consumers wouldn't have to conserve.

Are there other solutions? Yes, perhaps now more than ever. We have spent the last few weeks celebrating the great dividends San Diego can expect since we have Pete Wilson in Sacramento. Now is the time to let our governor know that we want to start working immediately on legislation and programs that will increase the supply of water from Northern to Southern California. At the same time, let's expedite projects designed to help bring water our way and build new reservoirs to hold it.

As we look for solutions, I hope we will look beyond the quick "fix" and avoid the temptation to focus on one small part of this problem. Conservation is but one of several areas where we must focus our efforts. Supply and storage are just as important.


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