By Mark Weston
When I walk around my neighborhood, it’s clear that a new level of commitment to water-use efficiency has taken hold at the grassroots level. About half the homes around me have upgraded from conventional turf-based landscapes to attractive, low water landscapes that are more appropriate for the climate of San Diego County.
I see the same phenomenon across the county; residents and businesses are making the most of our water supplies like never before. In fact, we collectively use nearly 40 percent less potable water per capita today than we did in 1990.
At the San Diego County Water Authority, we embrace “water smart” living even though our investments in drought-resilient supplies mean the region has all of the water needed to sustain our $222 billion economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents even after five years of drought.
Our investments also mean that the region is no longer under emergency state mandates to reduce water use. On July 26, we launched a new outreach campaign — Live WaterSmart — in coordination with our 24 member agencies to help San Diego County make the most of our water supplies regardless of drought conditions.
With state mandates removed, we have an opportunity to do the right thing for our long-term water security while enhancing our region’s role as a leader in water-use efficiency. That tradition really began in the early 1990s, when the Water Authority sponsored landmark state legislation to mandate low-flush toilets that quickly became the national standard. Over the decades, we have created and supported numerous other efforts to hard-wire efficient water use into our everyday lives.
Live WaterSmart is the Water Authority’s resolution to raise awareness about ways to make the most efficient use of water, reinforce positive behaviors and promote available water-saving programs.
One easy way people can find out what they can do to improve their long-term water-use efficiency for a free home water-use checkup at WaterSmartSD.org. The website also offers numerous other resources, including an array of award-winning, water-efficient landscaping classes for homeowners and an on-demand video version of those classes to fit our busy lives.
You’ll also start to see Live WaterSmart reminders around the greater San Diego region. Donated outdoor advertising in several regional malls already shows the Live WaterSmart message and restaurants will be placing gentle reminders on their tabletops. Related outreach in the works includes print and digital ads, social media messages, promotional items and partnerships.
In addition, the Water Authority is also working with partners — including the city of San Diego, the County of San Diego, and the Surfrider Foundation — to launch a new incentive program for sustainable landscapes in August. It’s designed to help our region take the next step in water-efficient living, while improving storm water capture and enhancing the environmental benefits of our urban landscapes.
Let’s all Live WaterSmart so we can carefully manage our most precious natural resource no matter the weather.
—Mark Weston is chair of the Water Authority’s board of directors.