By Joe Tash
Mandatory restrictions on water use — including a three-days-per-week limit on watering landscaped areas — have been lifted for customers of the Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Fairbanks Ranch.
The irrigation district’s board of directors voted unanimously to lift the restrictions at its meeting on Thursday, May 19. The water-use restrictions, including a requirement that all residential and commercial customers cut back on water use by 6 percent, had been in place since July 1, 2009, as the state grappled with a water shortage caused by drought and environmental issues.
“All indications are that water supplies for this year and the coming year are adequate,” irrigation district general manager Michael Bardin told the board. “It’s a good water year in California,” he said.
Rainfall totals are at or above normal throughout California for the period from July 1 of last year through May 19, according to the National Weather Service website. The rainfall total for that period at San Diego Lindbergh Field was 12.5 inches, or 117 percent of normal, while Ramona received 24.13 inches, or 149 percent of normal.
In a report to the board, irrigation district staff noted that the snowpack in California’s mountains is above average for the second year in a row, and that conservation by district customers since the restrictions were imposed has resulted in a 20 percent decrease in water use locally.
In addition, the report said, reservoir levels in the state are either above normal or full, including Lake Hodges, which holds local water supplies available to the Santa Fe Irrigation District.
Lifting the water restrictions may also help the bottom lines of Santa Fe and other water districts. Bardin said water managers have had to balance the need for conservation with the loss of revenue caused by reduced water sales.
Bardin cautioned that in spite of the current abundant supply of water in California, future shortages could occur. He noted that reservoir levels along the Colorado River are still down after several years of drought, and a portion of San Diego County’s water is imported from the river.
The district still urges customers to conserve water where they can, and to use common-sense measures to avoid wasting water, such as fixing any irrigation leaks promptly, setting sprinklers properly so they don’t over-water, and not washing down paved areas with a hose.
Director John Ingalls said he would have preferred lifting the restrictions for a one-year period, rather than ending the district’s Level 2 Drought Response, which triggers the mandatory water-saving measures.
“We know there’s a long-term water shortage. We’ve had one rainy year,” Ingalls said. “We give the appearance to the public of going guardrail to guardrail.”
But other directors supported the action.
“I think we’re looking at a snapshot in time, and at this moment there is no emergency,” said director Robert “Bud” Irvin.
Ingalls joined his board colleagues in voting to lift the restrictions.