Water Authority Moves to Stage 2 of Drought Management Plan

The San Diego County Water Authority Board has approved implementing Stage 2 of the region's Drought Management Plan, "supply enhancement," to address water-supply challenges facing San Diego County in 2008.

The supply enhancement stage of the Drought Management Plan authorizes entering into short-term water transfer contracts to augment water supplies. These short-term transfers secure rights to specified quantities of water from suppliers outside the San Diego region for periods of one or more years. The Water Authority is negotiating with several water districts and other potential suppliers in northern and central California to secure up to 30,000 acre-feet of additional water supplies for 2008.

The Board also approved additional funding to enhance public outreach efforts to support increased voluntary conservation throughout the region. The public outreach program will include the development of a regional advertising and marketing program to support the region's "20-Gallon Challenge" water conservation campaign. That program will be presented to the Board early next year. The Water Authority has set a goal of saving 56,000 acre-feet of water through additional voluntary conservation next year.

"We are continuing our efforts to ensure water reliability in an orderly, thoughtful manner that takes into account our present challenges, and the potential for water supply conditions to change for the better or worse in 2008," said Water Authority Board Chair Fern Steiner. "In addition to seeking additional supplies of water, our efforts include intensifying our communications to encourage residents and businesses in the county to increase voluntary water conservation and to join the 20-Gallon Challenge. The community's help is critical for minimizing the potential for mandatory water use restrictions."

Extremely dry conditions have impacted the region's local and imported water supplies. The reliability of the State Water Project (SWP), the source of about 40 percent of all water used the San Diego region, has been adversely impacted by federal court-ordered restrictions on pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta to protect the threatened Delta smelt. Water officials expect these restrictions to reduce SWP deliveries in 2008 and beyond.

On November 26, the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced its initial allocation for water deliveries to SWP contractors in calendar year 2008 would be 25 percent. That's a significant reduction from the 60 percent initial allocation for calendar year 2007. The allocation can increase if there is a significant amount of winter storms or can decrease if water supply conditions worsen. DWR typically determines its final water delivery allocation to the SWP by May 1.

The Water Authority implemented Stage 1 of its Drought Management Plan, voluntary supply management, in May 2007. The Water Authority activated the plan in response to dry conditions forcing the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to tap its reserves to meet current-year demands. It called for monitoring supply conditions, maximizing storage opportunities, and launching a communications campaign to encourage increased voluntary conservation.

Stage 2 of the Drought Management Plan, supply enhancement, is triggered when conditions warrant the purchase and delivery of supplemental supplies to reduce or avoid shortages to urban customers. Another factor taken into account is that starting January 1, Metropolitan will implement a 30 percent cut in water supplies to agricultural users in its service area who participate in a discount water management program.

If conditions worsen to the point that Metropolitan and the Water Authority do not have enough supplies to meet current urban water demands, Stage 3 of the Drought Management Plan, mandatory water use restrictions, will be triggered. This stage could include reducing water allocations to the Water Authority's 24 member agencies.

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