Watering restrictions to take effect June 1


The City Council voted Tuesday to crack down on excess water use in San Diego, declaring a “Level 2” drought alert and imposing mandatory outdoor water-use restrictions in what Mayor Jerry Sanders called a “new era” in local water use.

Limits on residents watering lawns and washing cars will go into effect June 1. Scofflaws will face a fine of $100 to $1,000.

Residents will be allowed to water their lawns and landscaping only between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., three days a week from June through October for no more than 10 minutes at a time.

Homes with odd-numbered addresses will be permitted to water on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Homes with even-numbered addresses can water on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. Apartments, condos and businesses can water only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Cars should only be washed at residences between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., and a bucket and a hose with a shut-off nozzle must be used.

There will also be restrictions on ornamental fountains and construction site watering. Restaurants will only serve water on request and commercial car washes will be asked to reduce the amount of water they use.

The city plans to hire seven employees, on top of the three they already have, to help enforce the new water restrictions. Water Department officials said enforcement will largely be driven by citizen complaints.

Necessitating the mandatory restrictions is the recent decision by the San Diego County Water Authority to reduce water deliveries to its member agencies in the region by 8 percent.

“The cuts won’t be as deep as we had first thought, but it’s enough to require water use restrictions,’’ Sanders testified at the start of a more than two-hour hearing.

“None of us want to dictate how San Diego can use water,” he said. “Nonetheless, I strongly believe that we must launch a new era in the way we think about and use water in our communities.”

Fearing that wholesalers would slash the amount of water San Diego gets by as much as 20 percent, Sanders has warned for more than a year that mandatory rationing was imminent.

The more modest reduction in water deliveries allowed the city to temporarily back away from an earlier plan that would have allocated a set amount of water to residential customers based on historical use. That model, some argued, was unfair because it penalized those who already heeded the call to conserve and voluntarily cut back on their water use.

Alex Ruiz, assistant director of the Water Department, said Monday any violator will get a warning first before being issued a fine. The warning would be in the form of a notice hung on a door, he said.

San Diego’s Water Department has budgeted $200,000 to $300,000 over the next few months to notify residents about the changes through water bill inserts, billboards, print and broadcast advertisements, according to Ruiz.

Councilwoman Donna Frye, who spearheaded the new water use policies with Sanders, said the city needs to start planning now for the potential of future water delivery cuts to the region.

“To some extent we were sort of fortunate in that the cuts that we felt we were going to have to face did not come to fruition,’’ Frye said. “At least not right away.”

“So, we do have some time -- rather than immediately adopt a water allocation methodology -- we have a little bit of time to instead deal with a

methodology that deals more with behavioral restrictions,’’ she said.

Several council members tossed around the idea of implementing a price-based model that provides a financial incentive to conserve as a way to further cut back on water use in the future.

Bruce Reznik, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, said the restrictions included in the Level 2 drought declaration don’t go far enough to preserve local water supplies.

“This is not a drought, it’s a trend,” Reznik told the City Council.

“Our water supplies are shrinking and yet everything in this plan sort of treats it as a temporary inconvenience. We need to change our mindset and our perspective.”

The Mayor’s Office has scheduled community meetings in each of the eight City Council districts through May 27 to educate the public about the new water use restrictions.