Del Mar moves to limit irrigation, cut beach showers as it grapples with restrictions

With the statewide drought in its fourth year, Del Mar is doing its part to reduce city water use.

On April 1, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order, calling for a statewide 25 percent cut in water use. The regulations take effect June 1.

In response to the conservation order and a planned cut in deliveries by the Metropolitan Water District, the San Diego County Water Authority recently imposed tighter restrictions and set supply allocations to local agencies. That amounts to about a 1 percent cutback, explained Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, during the May 18 council meeting.

Del Mar purchases all of its water from the Water Authority, which receives about half of its water supply from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The Metropolitan Water District called for a 15 percent cutback in late April, based on its current water supply and projected demand.

Under the allocation plan, Del Mar will receive 1,116 acre-feet per year, which is about how much water the city purchased in fiscal year 2013-14. The city’s total water use for 2013 was 1,070 acre-feet, which equates to 348 million gallons.

Still, Del Mar must meet the governor’s mandate.

With fewer than 3,000 connections to the water system, Del Mar is considered a “small urban water supplier,” and is therefore required to limit outdoor irrigation to two days per week or implement other measures to reduce total potable water use by 25 percent.

With the council’s 3-0 vote, Del Mar has opted to implement the two-day-per-week irrigation restrictions, which the Water Authority has required of its member agencies. Mayor Al Corti and Councilman Don Mosier were absent from the meeting.

“We have to do this,” Crane said. “We will be coming back with an emergency ordinance on June 1 in order to move that forward here in Del Mar. We’re figuring out the logistics of that, what the schedule will be.

“At this point, even though it is not yet officially in effect, we encourage our residents to start using the two-day-per-week watering restrictions,” she added. “We’re doing that now with city property.”

In addition, Del Mar’s proposed drought-response plan includes other actions to maximize water efficiency at city facilities, landscaping and parks, as well as expand public outreach.

“It’s critical that the city lead by example,” Crane said.

Other long-term strategies under consideration include the installation of smart water meters, the expanded use of recycled water for landscaping, and the promotion of turf removal programs, among others.

Some Del Mar residents wanted to do even more.

Del Mar’s Parks & Recreation Committee suggested the city shut off the beach showers at all locations, except the Beach Safety Center.

The Sustainability Advisory Committee, however, recommended the city maintain all beach showers, and instead increase public education, post additional signs and ensure that all the shower heads are water-efficient.

According to staff estimates, the annual water use at all four beach shower locations is 495,360 gallons, which equates to a cost of about $2,800 per year and represents 0.1 percent of the city’s total water use.

“I think, psychologically, we’ve got to send a message,” resident Bill Michalsky said during the meeting. “Turn them off. I think people will get it.”

“Two-days-a-week landscaping is all well and good, but two-days-a-week landscaping is what everybody else is doing,” added Robin Crabtree.

“I just feel that it’s a blatant abuse of our resource,” she said regarding the beach showers. “We could use it somewhere else.

“It’s our chance to be a leader. It’s our chance to make a statement.”

The council agreed and voted to turn off the beach showers at all locations except the Beach Safety Center until the drought is over.

“I’m convinced that as a symbolic effort, we should shut them off,” said Councilman Dwight Worden. “It doesn’t feel right to tell people to tighten their belt and then see the showers — regardless of how much water is actually being used.”