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Olivenhain water district surpasses conservation target two of three months

The owner of this dirt front yard in Cardiff saves water to combat the drought. A state report shows the San Dieguito Water District has yet to meet a conservation target in three months, while the Olivenhain Municipal Water District has twice hit its goal.
( / Jared Whitlock)

Residents in the Olivenhain Municipal Water District slashed their water use 33.6 percent from June through August, besting a state mandate during two of the three months.

“While Olivenhain Municipal Water District has made many programs, water use evaluations and rebates available, it is our customers who have done the heavy lifting and have met the conservation goals,” said Olivenhain district General Manager Kim Thorner in an email.

The California Water Resources Control Board in June began requiring cuts from water districts in response to the ongoing drought, with the Olivenhain district’s monthly reduction target set at 32 percent. Agencies that repeatedly miss their conservation mandate could be fined.

Although the Olivenhain district met its target in June and July, the district fell short of its goal in August, clocking in with 28.6 percent in water savings, according to a new report from the California Water Resources Control Board.

California officials are gauging whether each agency meets its target by measuring water use against the same month in the benchmark year of 2013.

Residents in the San Dieguito Water District, which serves western Encinitas, have missed the district’s 28 percent target each of the three months. In August, district customers cut back 20.4 percent, bringing the district’s three-month average to 21.6 percent.

“We have just received our numbers for September and district customers cut water use by 24.5 percent,” San Dieguito district General Manager Bill O’Donnell said in an email. “While this is still below our conservation target, we are encouraged that the numbers are moving in the right direction.”

Although the San Dieguito district has yet to meet its reduction mandate, O’Donnell said the agency isn’t facing any penalties from the State Water Resources Control Board. State officials recently requested more information about the district’s conservation plan, it was noted during the last district board meeting.

In an attempt to step up conservation, O’Donnell said the district last month hired a “drought intern” to look for over-irrigation and watering on the wrong days of the week. Under drought restrictions, residents can water only twice a week and on certain days (check sdwd.org for the schedule).

Another part of the district’s conservation strategy is reaching residents in apartments and other multi-family dwelling units.

“These customers typically do not receive a water bill, so they do not understand just how much water they use and do not see water conservation information printed on our water bills,” O’Donnell said in an email.

He also stated that the district is working to convert more sites to recycled water, which, unlike potable water, is exempt from the state mandate.

On that note, Thorner said the Olivenhain district is notifying Village Park residents that recycled water will be available to many of them next year. Other Olivenhain initiatives include increased enforcement and a new recycled water station in 4S Ranch where residents can fill up drums for landscaping and other uses.

Water agencies are telling residents it’s critical to keep conserving, despite the El Niño weather pattern forming. El Niño typically brings higher-than-average rainfall to Southern California in the winter, but it remains to be seen whether El Niño will deliver significant precipitation to all-important watersheds in Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.

Californians in August cut water use 27 percent, exceeding the state’s overall 25 percent conservation mandate for a third straight month.

“Millions of Californians stepped up to save water this summer and we must all keep up the good work because no one knows how much longer this historic drought will continue,” said Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, in a press release.


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