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Here's what you need to know about new water restrictions in San Diego

Right now, the City of San Diego is focusing on education rather than penalizing people. So why are we being asked to do this?

SAN DIEGO — New water-use restrictions went into for the City of San Diego on Friday, as part of a statewide effort to conserve water. According to the new rules, we can no longer wash our cars at home, but we’re still able to go to a commercial car wash. 

“Yes, we can go to car washes,” said Juan Guerreiro, Director of the Public Utilities Department for the City of San Diego. “Fortunately, commercial car washes are required to recycle their water, so they’re very efficient operations.” 

They also want you to limit watering your lawn or landscape at home to three times per week, and it needs to be done before 10:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. And after it rains, you shouldn’t use your sprinklers again for another 48 hours. 

“It’s probably enough water to keep landscape healthy and looking good,” said Guerreiro. “But again, it’s just making sure we’re being really water conscious.” 

Why are we being asked to conserve water?

Right now, they’re focusing on education rather than penalizing people. So why are we being asked to do this?

“California has been in a transitional period from occasional drought to something that’s more like a transition to a warmer, dryer climate and we have to adapt to those warmer and dryer conditions,” said Jeanine Jones with the California Department of Water Resources. 

Jeanine Jones with the California Department of Water Resources says we’re in the third year of a drought and precipitation this year across the state is at about three quarters of what we’re normally used to. 

“This year the State Water Project allocation is only at 5% and the Colorado River Basin, in the lower basin, has the first ever lower basin shortage,” said Jones.  “The Water Project only has the water to supply 5% of the requested amounts to contractors, including Metropolitan Water District, which then wholesales water to the San Diego area.” 

Some areas in Northern and Central California are feeling the brunt of the drought and water supply shortages, but because of smart planning and diversification of our water supply sources, the San Diego area is in good shape. 

“The San Diego County Water Authority area has taken huge steps to improve its drought resilience and it’s probably one of the best prepared areas in the state,” said Jones. 

By conserving water locally, we can import less, leaving more water for other areas in California that are in dire need.  These conservation measures will also help to make sure we’ll have enough water here in the years to come. 

“It’s important during a drought to think about, not only your supplies right now, but also what is happening to other supplies, to the environment, and having enough water for next year,” said Jones. 

What are the restrictions?

Level 2 water restrictions include the following actions for all City of San Diego water customers: 

  • Areas with no irrigation system must use a hand-held hose with a shutoff nozzle, hand-held container or a garden hose sprinkler system on a timer.
  • Irrigation is prohibited during and within 48 hours of a rain event.
  • Landscape irrigation is limited to no more than three days per week before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. This does not apply to commercial growers or nurseries, nor to the irrigation of golf course greens and trees. 
  • Use of recycled or non-potable water, when available, is required for construction purposes. 
  • Prohibition of irrigating non-functional turf with potable water. 
  • Washing of vehicles at residences is prohibited. Washing is still permitted at commercial car washes.

What are the year-round restrictions?

Aside from these new measures, the City of San Diego has year-round permanent mandatory water restrictions in place. These restrictions are designed to promote water conservation as a permanent way of life in San Diego. 

  • A customer shall not allow potable water to irrigate outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff, such that, water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures. 
  • Customers shall repair or stop all water leaks upon discovery or within 72 hours of notification by the City of San Diego. 
  • Customers shall not wash down sidewalks, driveways, parking areas, tennis courts, or other paved areas without using a power washer or a hose with a shutoff nozzle. Washing any paved areas is only allowed to alleviate immediate safety or sanitation hazards. Water shall be collected and prevented from leaving the property and entering the municipal separate storm sewer system. 
  • Customers shall not overfill swimming pools and spas. 
  • Customers shall not use non-recirculating potable water in ornamental fountains or cascading fountains. 
  • Customers shall not use a hose that dispenses potable water to wash a motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use. 
  • Single pass-through cooling systems, as part of water service connections, shall be prohibited after the effective date of this section. Non-recirculating systems in all conveyer car wash and commercial laundry systems shall be prohibited after the effective date of this section. 
  • The serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars or other public places where food or drink are served and/or purchased is prohibited. 
  • To promote water conservation, operators of hotels and motels shall provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily. The hotel or motel shall prominently display notice of this option in each guestroom using clear and easily understood language. 
  • Potted plants, non-commercial vegetable gardens and fruit trees, residential and commercial landscapes, including golf courses, parks, school grounds and recreation fields, may only be watered before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. 
  • The irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians shall be prohibited. 
  • The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall shall be prohibited.

These restrictions apply to those whose property lies within the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department's service area. If you receive your water bill from a different agency, please check with that agency regarding any applicable water use restrictions. 

For more information, visit the City of San Diego’s website. 

WATCH RELATED: Californians could see mandatory water cuts amid drought (May 2022).

    

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