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Mandatory water-use restrictions on tap for Encinitas

An efficient water sprinkler head irrigates a lawn. The Olivenhain Municipal Water District enacted a drought Level 2 status to cut down consumption.
( / OMWD)

Residents in the eastern part of Encinitas who repeatedly overwater their lawns could face fines soon.

The OMWD (Olivenhain Municipal Water District) Board of Directors voted on July 23 to bump up its drought status from Level 1 to Level 2, effective Aug. 1.

Under Level 2, suggested Level 1 conservation measures become mandatory. So residents will be prohibited from irrigating to the point where runoff flows onto sidewalks, watering from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and hosing down driveways (unless for health or safety reasons).

Also, irrigating will be limited to three days a week for households.

“Level 2 is focused on eliminating wasteful outdoor water usage,” said Joey Randall, management analyst supervisor with OMWD, on July 21.

Repeat offenders can expect a letter, a second written warning and then progressively more expensive fines, up to $500 per violation.

Enforcement will primarily be up to OMWD employees. To help, Randall said OMWD will utilize “the eyes and ears of the community.” Residents can report violators at the district’s website (olivenhain.com).

SDWD (San Dieguito Water District), which serves the western half of the city, will consider Level 2 at its next board meeting on Aug. 20.

The districts’ push for Level 2 is a response to a call to action from the State Water Resources Control Board. It recently required that local districts impose mandatory restrictions, citing the drought’s devastating impact on crops and the economy.

“We are in the midst of a historic drought, and the regulations recently imposed by the state board remind us of the critical importance of doing all we can to conserve water,” said OMWD board President Larry Watt. “The move to a Level 2 water supply shortage is an important step to ensure that there is enough water in reserves to meet demands into 2015.”

The state board’s decision was also influenced by data showing statewide water use climbed 1 percent last May compared with the same month in prior years, even though Gov. Jerry Brown requested a 20 percent reduction.

OMWD’s water demand from this past January through April was 20 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.

Randall said this was the driest period on record, largely explaining the jump.

“It was unseasonably warm and there was a lack of rain,” Randall said. “Put those together, and this led folks to irrigate landscapes or crops more.”

Level 2 aims to achieve a 20 percent reduction.

In the county, water use rose 3.5 percent during the 2013-14 fiscal year when compared with the previous fiscal year. However, water demand has declined 20 percent since 2007.

As a result of the state board’s action, larger districts like OMWD that don’t adopt conservation plans by Aug. 1 could be fined $10,000 a day.

The OMWD board will consider more expensive water rates associated with Level 2 at its Aug. 13 meeting. Districts opt for “drought rates” to discourage consumption and make up for lost water sales.

SDWD won’t mull over drought rates at its Aug. 20 meeting. But the board could eventually enact drought rates if a sharp decline in demand results in a significant financial loss, according to Bill O’Donnell, assistant general manager of SDWD.

O’Donnell noted if rates stay the same and consumption declines 5 percent, the district would lose an estimated $430,000 over one year.

Starting Aug. 1, odd numbered houses can irrigate Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, with the even numbered homes taking the remaining days. For multi-family units, the schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Other water agencies throughout the county will vote whether to move to Level 2 in the coming weeks.

For a full list of restrictions and ways to conserve water, visit olivenhain.com.


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