More about our local water situation – an excerpt from nytimes.com:
LAKESIDE, Calif. — In many parts of California, reminders abound that the American West is running out of water. “Bathtub rings” mark the shrinking of the state’s biggest reservoirs to some of their lowest recorded levels. Fields lie fallow, as farmers grapple with an uncertain future. A bed-and-breakfast owner spends $5 whenever a tourist showers.
But not in San Diego County.
In this coastal desert metropolis, life has stayed mostly the same for residents already accustomed to conserving what they have long treated as a precious resource.
On a recent afternoon, boats sped over the silvery surface of San Vicente Reservoir, a key water storage site for the county about 25 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. It was about as full as usual, cutting a sharp contrast with the desiccated lake beds where state officials have appeared in recent months, pleading with Californians to save water. The San Diego County Water Authority estimated that it would have sustainable water supplies through 2045, even if dry conditions persisted for years.
Now, with San Diego facing the prospect of orders to use even less water, its relative water plenty has become a case study in the uneven ways that the Western drought is affecting the nation’s most populous state. And the county’s try-everything approach to getting water has emerged as a model for cities — including Denver and Albuquerque — where leaders are dealing with one of climate change’s most dire effects.
For much of the past century, San Diego was almost entirely dependent on water that came from elsewhere in the state, or from the Colorado River. Their supplies were effectively controlled by water officials in Los Angeles — a contentious relationship that seeded long-running legal battles.
In 1991, during a punishing drought, San Diego reached a turning point. The Metropolitan Water District, the Los Angeles-based wholesaler that controlled nearly all of San Diego’s water, slashed the county’s supply by 30 percent for a little more than a year. Grass turned brown. Residents put bricks in their toilet tanks to make them flush less water.
And, crucially, the region’s burgeoning biotechnology industry was hammered by water shut-offs that came with little warning. Joe Panetta, the president and chief executive of Biocom California, a biotech advocacy group formed largely in response to that crisis, recalled panic as projects that cost tens of thousands of dollars were ruined. Researchers could not wash lab equipment.
The group took its cause to city and county leaders. “We told them it’s going to do tremendous harm to this young industry if the water is shut off,” Mr. Panetta said.
After that, San Diegans made a collective vow: Never again.
In 1996, the San Diego County Water Authority struck a landmark agreement to buy water from farmers in the Imperial Valley, in California’s southeastern corner, that heralded the beginning of the region’s water divorce from Los Angeles.
Over the following two decades, the agency took on a series of significant — and expensive — infrastructure projects aimed at establishing more diverse sources of water, more places to keep it and more ways to move it around the county.
In 2010, the authority lined canals in the Imperial Valley with concrete to prevent water from seeping into the earth, and made a deal to take the water saved by the process — some 26 billion gallons a year. The authority finished raising the San Vicente Dam in 2014, adding more capacity to San Vicente Reservoir in the biggest water storage increase in the county’s history.
Then there was the long, fraught gestation of a seawater desalination plant, the largest in the United States and now the envy of desperate communities up the coast, in spite of environmental concerns. Since 2015, millions of gallons of seawater have flowed into the $1 billion facility in Carlsbad each day, where it is filtered into something that tastes like it came from an Evian bottle, not the Pacific Ocean.
Across the county, restrictions and conservation pushes have led per capita water use to fall by half over the past three decades.
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