SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego will heighten enforcement of water use restrictions amid a worsening drought and a call by Gov. Jerry Brown for further conservation, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Wednesday.
"The past four years of unrelenting drought and near-record heat are moving California into uncharted territory," Faulconer said. "Last week's unprecedented executive order by Governor Brown will require San Diegans to come together and cut water use like never before."
Last year, the city ordered residents to irrigate their lawns and gardens only on certain days and times, and to fix any water leaks within 72 hours, among other things.
Public Utilities Director Halla Razak said 990 complaints have been received since Nov. 1 regarding people wasting water, but no fines have been issued. Of those violators, 80 percent began to comply with the restrictions after receiving a letter, she said. City officials had face-to-face discussions with the rest, she said.
Now, instead of being the third step, citations will be the second action to be taken by city officials, Razak said.
Faulconer also said the city will look at ways of reducing potable water use at parks and irrigation of landscaped roadway medians, and re-institute a rebate program for people who replace their lawn with drought-tolerant plants.
The mayor said he set aside $200,000 for the rebate program for the next few months, to be followed by a $250,000 line item in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
When combined with state incentives, residents could receive $3.50 per square foot of removed grass, according to Razak.
The mayor said the Parks Department will consider reducing the amount of potable water used at municipal golf courses. Watering at small parks could be eliminated, he said.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said homeowners associations need to reevaluate their landscaping and consider using drought-tolerant plants.
"We are asking San Diegans to dig a little deeper, do a little more," Zapf said.
Council President Sherri Lightner said city officials should explore building a desalination plant in San Diego, like ones under construction in Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton. She also advocated for more infrastructure for recycled water.
According to Faulconer, state water officials will determine the new allocation for San Diego early next month.
"We are not waiting until then to cut our water usage," Faulconer said.
He said San Diegans have reduced water use by double-digit amounts since 2007 and will continue to do their part.
Residents were encouraged to download the "Waste No Water" app for their mobile devices so they can report and stop the wasting of water.?