Hutton Marshall | Editor
On Oct. 8, the City Council Environment Committee passed a recommendation to move to Level 2 Drought Alert, which would mandate water conservation measures that are currently voluntary. This followed a press conference the day prior in which Mayor Kevin Faulconer recommended the city adopt the more arduous restrictions, which would include limiting lawn irrigation to three days a week, washing vehicles before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. and turning off all ornamental water fountains, except for repairs. Due to bipartisan support for the ramped up measures, the mandatory restrictions will likely receive strong support when heard before the full City Council this month. If approved by the city legislators, Faulconer would then have authority to enact the drought alert.
In July, the city moved to enact voluntary water restrictions, which recommend residents follow the aforementioned rules without enforcing them. Mandatory drought restrictions would be enforceable by fines of approximately $100, Faulconer told KPBS. While local environmental groups were critical of the city’s decision not to adopt mandatory restrictions in July, they praised the increased effort at Wednesday’s Environment Committee meeting.
“I do think enforcement is necessary, and I know regulation can only be as effective as its enforcement,” said Matt O’Malley, head of San Diego Coastkeeper.
Councilmember David Alvarez chairs the Environment Committee. He said residents shouldn’t be fearful of these mandatory measures.
“You can still use water. You can still water your lawns. You can still wash your cars,” Alvarez said at the committee meeting. “Your lifestyle isn’t going to change that much. These are really common sense.”
At his press conference Tuesday, Faulconer praised San Diegans for continuing to reduce their water usage, but added that more must be done. The region’s water usage dropped 5.7 percent in September and 4.4 percent in August compared to the same months last year. In September, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 95 percent of California was in “severe or exceptional” state of drought.
Earlier this summer, Uptown News reported on efforts by volunteers and city staff to reduce water usage in Balboa Park. If put into effect, the Level 2 Drought Alert will mandate Balboa Park discontinue the usage of its highly visible Plaza de Balboa fountain near the Fleet Science Center, despite it being a closed-circuit water system.
A spokesperson for Council President Todd Gloria, who sets the council’s agenda, said their office hopes to get the measure before City Council on Oct. 21.
—Contact Hutton Marshall at Hutton@sdcnn.com.