San Diego s Water Supply Future

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1 San Diego s Water Supply Future Securing water for future generations & a growing economy with conservation and supply independence BUILDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY POSITION PAPER ON WATER SUPPLY & CONSERVATION OCTOBER 2008

2 INTRODUCTION The San Diego Region is faced with an impending water supply shortage which could lead to mandatory conservation measures and a possible moratorium on the issuance of new water meters. A moratorium would affect essentially all new development, including both public and private projects such as parks, schools, libraries, civic centers, employment centers, affordable and market-rate housing projects, and potentially important infrastructure projects. This action would halt the economic development of the region s diversity of industries, including bioscience and technology-based companies, and would greatly impact the building industry, already mired in a deep real estate recession and one of the primary drivers of our economy. With construction alone generating around $3 billion a year in economic growth and employing more than 20,000 construction workers, the region s economy would be greatly impacted by a moratorium. The industrial base of the region could also be irreparably harmed as growing industries perceive San Diego as an environment that is no longer able to support them. Our local leaders and stakeholders must recognize and agree that, in the interest of the economic health of the region, the building industry must be able to build housing and employment centers for population and job growth. The Building Industry Association of San Diego County has prepared this position paper outlining a path to avert a building moratorium with a water offset program as well as key water conservation and supply enhancement solutions that need to be prioritized and implemented to address the region s long-term water needs and prevent future threats to our supply. Page 1 of 19

3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Imported water supply from Northern California to the San Diego Region is threatened and the region is faced with impending restrictions. An endangered species court ruling (Natural Resources Defense Council vs. Kempthorne, 2007 WL , E.D.Cal., Dec. 14, 2007), affecting supply from the Sacramento River Delta, combined with a sustained drought in the West, poses a potential 20 to 30% reduction in our water supply in the near future. The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies have declared a Level 1 Drought Response putting voluntary conservation measures of 10% into effect. If the supply shortage persists, local water agencies are prepared to move to Level 2 and beyond, putting in place mandatory conservation measures. Under a Level 3 Drought Response, water agencies have the authority to declare a moratorium on issuing new water meters. The San Diego Region is presented with the monumental challenge of addressing this threat to our water supply with conservation and supply independence. This paper highlights the building industry s leadership role in water conservation and outlines actions that the building industry is prepared to take to further reduce water use with new development. This paper also outlines the conservation and supply solutions that we believe our region must implement to address our long-term water needs. Lastly, this paper lays out a path to avert a Level 3 building moratorium with a water offset program for new development. Page 2 of 19

4 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS The building industry will partner with the local government agencies and stakeholders to implement the following measures to address impending supply restrictions and to meet our long-term supply needs in an effort to maintain the future economic viability of our region. CONSERVATION (SHORT TERM & LONG TERM) Implement the Regional Model Landscape Ordinance. Work with industry stakeholders to establish educational, training and certification programs and compliance standards for landscape professionals. Work with local nurseries and retailers to promote drought-tolerant landscaping & indoor water savings devices in their stores. Engage in a consistent and effective public education and outreach campaign on how to achieve indoor and outdoor water conservation. Promote incentive-based water conservation rebates and implement more aggressive residential tiered water rates to encourage users to save. Develop a long-term plan to retrofit all government-owned sites (parks, civic centers, government facilities, freeway & roadway rights of way, etc.) with drought-tolerant landscaping and weather-based irrigation controllers. Where replacing landscaping is inconsistent with the intended use (e.g., active parks), consider adjustments to the irrigation schedule, install weatherbased irrigation controllers and remove water-consumptive vegetation where possible. Through education and incentives, encourage larger water users such as apartment and condominium complexes and commercial and industrial sites to install irrigation technologies like drip and weather-based irrigation controllers and replace water-consumptive vegetation. Page 3 of 19

5 NEW SUPPLIES (LONG TERM) Begin planning next desalination facilities and implement storage projects. Implement Indirect Potable Water Reuse. Extend reclaimed water service to new development. Reduce regulatory barriers and expand use of reclaimed water and grey water. Advocate for a permanent dual water supply conveyance from the Sacramento River Delta to protect drinking water for Southern California and advocate for long-term protection and restoration of the Delta ecosystem. LEVEL 3 DROUGHT RESTRICTIONS (EMERGENCY MEASURES) Aggressive efforts to increase conservation and develop new supply must be fully implemented before a Level 3 Drought Response is declared. In the event of a Level 3 Drought Response, the building industry proposes a temporary program for new development (effective only for the life of the Level 3) to offset the net water use of the development project after subtracting the project s conservation efforts, any water reuse or reclaimed water use incorporated into the project, and the mandatory conservation measures applicable to all consumers, existing and new. The building industry recommends the following provisions be incorporated into the water offset program: Development projects entitled during a Level 3 Drought would be subject to the requirement to offset water use if they are to proceed with development during the Level 3 Drought. Projects that receive their entitlements during the Level 3 Drought Response would be tolled until the Level 3 is lifted if the project applicant does not proceed with construction and the requirement to offset water use during the Level 3. Projects that comply with an Urban Water Management Plan would be permitted to proceed with their approval process without being subject to additional conditions, as these water management plans are long-term plans that account for comparable drought restrictions and supply reductions. Projects which offset water use would not be subject to water capacity fees as these projects do not create a net increase for water or capacity for water. Page 4 of 19

6 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WATER SUPPLY Southern California obtains about 40% of its water via the Sacramento River Delta. A court recently determined that, in order to avoid impacts to the endangered Delta Smelt fish, the pumps which pull water off the delta and deliver it to Southern SACRAMENTO RIVER DELTA California must be subject to restricted use, jeopardizing the water supply for as many as 23 million people. Adding to the uncertainty, the West is experiencing a cyclical drought providing less rainfall to Southern California and parts of the Colorado River Watershed. Projected rainfall in key watershed areas is below that of stated norms and meteorologists are predicting this trend to continue. Concurrent with this situation, population growth throughout the West continues to pressure demand for this reduced supply of water. Court-imposed environmental restrictions combined with reduced precipitation are jeopardizing the availability of water to Southern California, ultimately threatening the public and economic health of the region. The building industry, the science and technology-based industries, the farming industry, the larger business community, political leaders, water agencies and some 23 million consumers are all faced with the monumental Page 5 of 19

7 challenge of reducing water consumption, expanding existing and deploying new water re-use technologies, and securing new, drought-proof water supplies such as desalination. The tools and ingenuity are in place for San Diego to overcome this challenge. It is up to everyone, from water suppliers to water consumers, to find the most cost-effective and equitable solutions to reducing water use. The Building Industry Association of San Diego County supports a two-pronged regional approach to addressing the current water supply restrictions: effective, market-based conservation combined with increasing drought-proof supplies of water (desalination and water reuse). Page 6 of 19

8 CONSERVATION Conservation must first begin with educating the public about the need and ways to reduce water use. Efforts to educate San Diegans about the situation and ways to start saving are well underway and we strongly support these efforts. To be most effective, education should be done through the San Diego County Water Authority and their member agencies, the agencies considered most credible on the issue of water supply, and conservation efforts must share a common, easily associated brand identification. Reduce Outdoor Water Use with Existing Homes & Businesses Outdoor water use generally comprises over 60% of the water use of a typical household. The County Water Authority estimates that upwards of 50% of the total water consumed on landscaping in the San Diego Region could be saved if Weather-Based Irrigation Controller water users stopped over-watering and replaced grass and other water consumptive vegetation with drought-tolerant landscaping. By this measure, simply replacing water-consumptive vegetation with droughttolerant vegetation and eliminating over-watering with satellite/weather-based irrigation controllers and high efficiency (e.g., drip) irrigation could dramatically reduce outdoor water use. It follows then that the single most effective way to reduce water consumption in San Diego is through a consistent and effective public education and outreach campaign encouraging water users to control outdoor water use by replacing water-consumptive landscaping with drought-tolerant and California- Friendly landscaping and by installing drip irrigation and weather-based irrigation controllers. Page 7 of 19

9 Retrofit Government Sites, Parks, and Freeways Government should lead by example in this effort by developing a long-term plan to retrofitting government-owned sites (parks, civic centers, government facilities, freeway & roadway rights of way and interchanges, etc.) with droughttolerant landscaping and weather-based irrigation controllers. Where replacing landscaping is inconsistent with the intended use (e.g., active parks), weatherbased controllers should be installed, irrigation schedules should be adjusted and, where appropriate, water-consumptive vegetation should be removed. Implement Regional Model (Drought-Tolerant) Landscape Ordinance For more than two decades, the building industry has been a leader in achieving steadily increasing levels of water and energy efficiencies with new construction. We are now applying this same approach to the landscaping for new development. Beginning in 2002, Riverside BIA worked with the Metropolitan Water District to develop the California Friendly Landscape Program, a program which cut in half the amount of landscape water new development used. Building off of the same principle of partnership and in an effort to implement an equivalent program in San Diego, BIA San Diego worked with the County Water Authority, landscape architects, environmentalists, water conservationists, local cities, and water agencies to develop the Regional Model Landscape Ordinance. Page 8 of 19

10 The Regional Model Landscape Ordinance achieves a 30% reduction in water use compared to current landscape practices by establishing new standards for irrigation systems, soil amendments, and drought-tolerant plant materials. The ordinance is modeled after the Riverside County California-Friendly Landscape Program. The Model Landscape Ordinance is awaiting final Department of Water Resources approval and the BIA and local jurisdictions are both preparing to begin implementing the new ordinance. Educate, Train and Certify Landscape Professionals Landscape professionals, including architects, installers, suppliers, and maintenance crews, will need to be trained on how to comply with the Regional Model Landscape Ordinance requirements. Designers will need to understand how landscape design and irrigation schemes will change. Installers need to understand how soil preparation, irrigation layout and irrigation cycles will change. Suppliers will need to adjust to carrying a more drought-tolerant selection of plants. And ultimately landscape maintenance crews will need to be educated on how to operate the irrigation controllers and manage these new landscapes so that water budgets and maintenance standards are adhered to. The building industry will partner with the County Water Authority and industry stakeholders to develop these training programs to ensure effective implementation of the new Regional Model Landscape Ordinance. Page 9 of 19

11 Establish Drought-Tolerant/Low Water Use Nurseries at Local Retailers Without an aggressive effort to educate existing water users, the principles of the Model Landscape Ordinance will have little effect on changing the nature of existing landscapes. To better facilitate the replacement of existing waterconsumptive landscapes, it is imperative that the County Water Authority and water agencies reach out to local nurseries and large retailers like Home Depot, Lowes, Target and Walmart which have nurseries in their stores and ask them to begin providing a designated section of their nurseries where a one-stop-shop for droughttolerant plant materials, soil amendments, and irrigation equipment and supplies can be found. With the volume of consumers that move through these stores, the replacement of existing landscapes could be greatly facilitated by simply giving the consumers tangible, easily implemented examples of these drought-tolerant landscapes, landscapes that can be both attractive and unique. Promote Savings (Rebates & Tiered Water Rates) Lastly, local water agencies should increase incentives to reduce outdoor water use by providing rebates to individuals who install weather-based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation, low-flow devices, etc. Water agencies should also examine their tiered water rates for single family residential uses, recognizing the life needs of a household s indoor water use but also discouraging users from overwatering their lawns and gardens. For example, in the City of San Diego, one possible approach is to reduce the Tier II water allotment for single family Page 10 of 19

12 residential users, from 7 Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF) to 4 or 5 HCF per month, to discourage over-watering and encourage users to replace their existing landscaping with low-water use landscaping. The Tier II water allotment should reflect what users should be using on their landscaping, not what the average user is currently using. Larger sites, including condominium complexes and commercial and industrial sites should be encouraged to install weatherbased irrigation controllers and remove water consumptive vegetation. There are many tools to implementing conservation. The greatest impact can be made with existing users (existing landscapes and water use habits). Government needs to partner with the key stakeholders in the business community to achieve the most effective and timely measures. Page 11 of 19

13 WATER SUPPLY INDEPENDENCE Implement Desalination, Indirect Potable Reuse, and Reclaimed Water The options to increase our local water supply vary, but all may be characterized as a diversification of supply. First and foremost, it is essential that the Poseidon Desalination Plant become fully operational on schedule. The project has overcome daunting planning and environmental permitting challenges, eventually winning final approval from the California Coastal Commission. However, lawsuits by the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation, the Planning and Conservation League and others need to be defeated. Local leaders, the business community and the water agencies must remain united in support of this project and maintain pressure on decisionmakers so that the project can be realized on-schedule and as planned. Our efforts to develop desalination in San Diego must not stop at the Carlsbad Desalination Project. The County Water Authority and its member agencies should be working aggressively to site new desalination projects in the region with a capacity equal or greater to that of the Carlsbad plant. The southern coastal part of the County might be the next ideal location for a desalination plant. Page 12 of 19

14 In addition to increasing the use of desalinization, our industry supports the expanded use of reclaimed water. The building industry supports the use of reclaimed water where service is available and feasible. Many development projects in the San Diego Region are required to install separate reclaimed water lines ( purple pipe ) for landscaping even when service is not available. Cities need to fund and implement the infrastructure projects necessary to extend reclaimed water service to these projects. Reclaimed water and grey water, widely used in other parts of the U.S. and in Europe and Australia, are promising solutions for California. Presently however, regulatory restrictions in California are limiting the application of reclaimed and grey water systems. Regulatory reform of state laws is needed to make these water reuse systems more viable. For this reason, the building industry supported Assembly Bill 1258, a legislative measure which directs the Building Standards Commission to review all available information on grey water systems and develop code standards for California so that grey water can be used under a consistent regulatory standard in the state. Similar regulatory reform is needed to the State Water Resources Control Board s policies on the use of reclaimed water for landscaping. The Water Resources Control Board regulations treat reclaimed water as a polluted water source, limiting its use in new development. Page 13 of 19

15 Desalination and water reuse are critical elements of our future supply independence. The region must also move forward with key storage projects like the San Vicente Reservoir Storage Expansion Project. The San Vicente Dam Project will more than double the current storage capacity of the dam, addressing both emergency storage and additional carryover storage for above average rainfall seasons. Lastly, we support Indirect Potable Water Reuse, a process whereby wastewater is treated to drinking water standards and mixed with imported water supplies and treated a second time to drinking water standards. Colorado River water that has been previously used, treated and then discharged into the Colorado River has been a vital part of San Diego s water supply since river water was first delivered to the region. The City of Las Vegas uses advanced water treatment technology to treat its discharge into the river and replace nearly all of the city s use of water from the river. We believe Indirect Potable Reuse could be a major component of the diversification of San Diego s water supply and significantly reduce our dependence on imported supplies. It is important to recognize that our region will continue to rely on imported water supply from Northern California and the Colorado River for the foreseeable future. Local elected officials need to support and advocate at the state level for conveyance of these critical water supplies to Southern California. As part of this effort, the California Building Industry Association and our Page 14 of 19

16 partners in the business community are working with state leaders to advocate for a permanent dual water supply conveyance from the Sacramento River Delta to provide water supply to Southern California and to advocate for long-term protection and restoration of the Delta ecosystem. These critical efforts need the active support of San Diego s political leadership. Over the long-term, when conservation efforts, supply independence and water reuse are combined in a comprehensive approach, not only can the water supply needs of the region be met, the region is well-positioned to maintain a healthy climate for economic growth. Page 15 of 19

17 ADDITIONAL CONSERVATION MEASURES TO CONSIDER AT LEVEL 3 DROUGHT Maintain the Economic Viability of the Region During a Level 3 Drought Response Conservation among existing users, especially as it relates to landscaping and other outdoor water use, will need to be an ongoing and major component of our region s conservation efforts, and the building industry is committed to playing a leadership role in that effort. If the water supply shortage persists, it is conceivable that the San Diego region will be subjected to mandatory conservation measures. Under such a scenario, the building industry recognizes that the public will want to see new development subjected to the same kind of standards as well. Under a Level 3 Drought Response, the building industry will agree to a fair and equitable program for achieving additional conservation through water use offsets. Under a Level 3, the building industry proposes a temporary program for new development projects (for the life of the Level 3) to offset the net water use of the development project after subtracting the project s conservation efforts, any water reuse or recycling incorporated into the project, and the mandatory conservation measures applicable to all consumers, existing and new. The building industry will agree to these measures under a Level 3 Drought Response provided that the requirement to offset water use is eliminated when the Level 3 Drought Response is lifted. The interim nature of this offset proposal is essential to the building industry s support. Key to making a water use offset program work is the establishment of a baseline for water use. We would suggest the baseline be structured around the concept of an Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) whereby an EDU is the regionally- Page 16 of 19

18 adjusted average annual use for a typical single-family household based on 3 years (36 months) of water use. With this as a baseline, and with reliable outdoor water use data, a realistic standard for indoor water use can be established. A development project s actual water demand would be based on the number of EDU s the project equated to after the project subtracted outdoor water savings with drought-tolerant landscaping, indoor water savings with appliances and water fixtures, any use of reclaimed or grey water in the project, including onsite water reuse, and lastly after applying the Stage 3 mandatory savings level (of 20 or 30%), which applies to all users, existing and new. After all of these water savings are subtracted from the baseline, the project s net water use can be determined for the purposes of establishing an offset. The net water use of a project would also need to account for the type of project (commercial, multifamily, single family, etc.) as different land uses translate into different levels of water consumption. For example, 2-bedroom multi-family condominiums use substantially less water than a typical single family home, both indoors and outdoors. A position supporting water use offsets forces the need for development projects to have different options available to them. Many projects may need to have the option to pay an in lieu fee, a fee which would fund identified conservation programs administered either by the County Water Authority or local water agencies. The fees could be used to subsidize cost-effective outdoor water savings measures for existing homes and businesses (rebates for weather-based controllers, irrigation equipment retrofits, etc.). Individual projects should have the option to pay an in lieu fee or achieve the savings directly. Or, rather than paying a fee, a developer may arrange with a property owner or owners to install retrofits in an apartment or business complex, for example, to achieve the water savings. Simply installing weather-based irrigation controllers can save tremendous amounts of water on existing landscapes. Page 17 of 19

19 The details of how these savings will be quantified and how the different options would work--the in lieu fee, conservation programs administered by water agencies, retrofitting existing sites--need to be resolved before the region can move forward with such an ambitious effort and before it would garner the building industry s undivided support. The building industry stands ready to partner with local water agencies and stakeholders to achieve an equitable and consistent program for the region. In the short term, the timing of implementation of the more potentially disruptive measures will need to be addressed. Development projects in the planning process today need certainty as to how their water supply needs will be addressed. To achieve building industry support, development projects entitled prior to the declaration of a Level 3 Drought Response would be allowed to proceed without the requirement to offset water use. Projects that receive their entitlements during the Level 3 Drought Response would be tolled until the Level 3 is lifted if the project applicant does not proceed with construction and the requirement to offset water use during the Level 3. And projects which offset water use would not be subject to water capacity fees as these projects do not create a net increase for water supply or capacity for water supply. Lastly, projects that comply with an Urban Water Management Plan need to be permitted to proceed with their approval process without being subject to additional conditions, as these water management plans are long-term plans that account for drought restrictions and supply reductions. The County Water Authority is firmly committed to its plan to address the region s long-term supply needs and the current short-term supply problems should not be allowed to jeopardize the region s long-term plans. Page 18 of 19

20 CONCLUSION Presented with uncertainty in our near-term water supply, our region is facing a monumental challenge. It is our collective responsibility to turn this monumental challenge into a monumental opportunity to achieve lasting conservation and supply independence. The BIA is committed to working with water agencies, local jurisdictions, and the region s stakeholders to ensure that equitable solutions are put in place to resolve this uncertainty and to realize lasting conservation and supply independence. Page 19 of 19

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