Del Mar City Council declares Stage 2 drought

The Del Mar City Council declared a Stage Two drought alert to raise awareness about mandatory water restrictions and encourage all residents to conserve more water.

Due to ongoing drought conditions and drastic cuts to supplies from the San Joaquin Delta, the San Diego County Water Authority is imposing mandatory water use restrictions beginning July 1 for all its member agencies, including Del Mar. The city faces hefty fines if it exceeds its allocation.

Right now, the city is well positioned to stay beneath its cap of 1,343 acre-feet, which is an 8 percent reduction from its historical average consumption, said David Sherer, director of public works. Through voluntary conservation, the city is on track to use about 1,234 acre-feet of water this year, which is a 14.5 percent reduction from 2007, he said.

While a majority of residential customers have conserved water, there are still numerous customers who have not.

“We have an awful lot of residents in the high consumption range,” Sherer said.

The city plans to ramp up its water conservation campaign, including posting the city’s monthly water usage on its Web site beginning in August.

Sherer said he is working on including a chart on individual water bills showing residents’ water consumption compared to their neighbors.

The public works department will also begin alerting residents if they notice broken sprinklers or other leaks that are wasting water.

The council did not implement drought water rates, in which water prices increase dramatically with greater consumption. However, if water usage begins to creep higher than projected, city staff said they will propose implementing the more expensive rates.

Councilman Carl Hilliard said he was not convinced higher prices would be effective in forcing some water hogs to cut back.

One option came up that some thought might be more effective - publishing the city’s top 10 water users on the city’s Web site.

The idea of publicly shaming water hogs into conservation was discussed at the meeting. The city can legally publish individual water usage, but is not making plans to do so at this time.