Irrigation district prepares for strict drought measures


The Santa Fe Irrigation District is updating its Drought Response Policies and Procedures, which will limit how often customers can water their lawns if the region’s water crisis continues to escalate.

The irrigation district’s board of directors is holding a public hearing on the proposed drought plan Oct. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at the district’s offices at 5920 Linea del Cielo. The public is invited to attend or submit written comments.

“We certainly encourage as much public participation in review process,” said Michael Bardin, general manager of the irrigation district, which serves Rancho Santa Fe.

The district’s plan has not been revised since the last major drought in the 1990s. The proposal streamlines a seven-stage response plan into four stages and is consistent with other water districts in the region and the San Diego County Water Authority, from which the district receives its water.

Levels of severity

The four levels call for increasing levels of water use reduction, primarily for outdoor landscaping.

Level one calls for a 10 percent voluntary reduction in anticipation of future water shortages to help prevent greater reductions from becoming necessary.

At this level, the district pledges to increase public education about water conservation, such as promoting the 20-Gallon Challenge, which asks consumers to reduce their water usage by 20 gallons per person per day.

Level two calls for a 20 percent reduction, and limits landscape watering to three times per week between June and October, and once a week from November through May.

Level three calls for a 40 percent reduction and limits landscape watering during the summer months to twice a week. This level also prohibits washing cars at home. Also, no new water customers can be added.

Finally, level four would be considered a water shortage emergency requiring more than a 40 percent reduction. All private landscape watering would stop except for a few exceptions such as commercial crops, fire and erosion control. Active parks, golf courses and schools would be allowed to water twice a week.

Water allocations, in which customers may face fines for using more than their fair share may be implemented during levels three and four.

Keeping it equitable

The method for determining allocations was deleted from this updated plan because it was too cumbersome, Bardin said. A new method will be developed in the coming months.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t happen,” Bardin said. “We wanted to update the policy and develop an allocation method that’s equitable before we ever reach the point of having allocations.”

If this proposal is adopted, the irrigation district will likely declare a level one shortage and continue with its education outreach campaign, Bardin said.

The response level would change based on the San Diego Water Authority’s actions, which has a three-stage drought plan.

That agency has already declared a stage two shortage, , and has been tapping storage facilities and purchased more expensive water from non-traditional sources to meet demand, Bardin said.

If the county declares a stage three shortage, supply will not meet demand and users will be required to cut back.

This is a very real possibility that could come as soon as next summer, Bardin said.

“We’ve been living on stored water for a couple years,” Bardin said. “That’s not sustainable.”

For a copy of the drought response plan, go to