Community Leader’s View: Time to establish water policy for the future

By Sherri Lightner

Councilwoman, First District

It might not seem like it now, but San Diego is facing a water crisis.

Currently, we depend too much on water that is shipped to us. That makes us vulnerable to Mother Nature’s whims and the Metropolitan Water District’s price hikes.

Our lack of local water sources also has a real impact on our current and future economic growth, limiting businesses’ ability to expand and hindering San Diego’s chances of attracting new companies because of water supply uncertainty.

Despite the importance of ensuring a sustainable water supply for San Diego, the City Council lacks a cohesive strategy to tackle the problem. Instead it has a mish-mash of outdated and contradictory policies — some more than two decades old — that fail to take into account emerging water technologies.

I have spent the last year developing a Comprehensive Water Policy, which was heard by the council on Oct. 17.

I have met with more than 25 different stakeholder groups ranging from the San Diego Chamber of Commerce to San Diego Coastkeeper and have worked closely with the Mayor’s and City Attorney’s offices.

This new policy provides a blueprint for how the City can go forward with a cohesive water strategy that incorporates a wide range of water sources and practices, including:

• Conservation

• Desalination

• Advanced Water Treatment

• Purple pipe

• Gray water and rain water collection

• New technologies

• Regional solutions

The key point of this Comprehensive Water Policy is the belief that we must use all available tools.

There is no ONE solution for a problem this big.

But we have to go beyond conservation and look at new and emerging technologies as well to create a viable local water supply.

This policy takes a long view of San Diego’s water needs and resources but it is only the first step. Once it is adopted, the real work begins as we determine how to put our policy into action.

As an engineer, I know that this is the critical step. We need to develop a plan that sets goals, timelines and measurements of our success.

Now is the time for us all to join together and take control of our water destiny.