WATER DROUGHT UPDATE: City of San Diego to reduce outdoor irrigation, offer rebates, issue fines to stop water waste

In response to Gov. Brown’s executive order to reduce water usage by 25 percent statewide, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Council President Sherri Lightner and City Councilmember Lorie Zapf announced on April 8 a series of actions by the city to reduce water usage and promote conservation. Those actions include:

• Directing the city’s Public Utilities Department to strengthen enforcement of water waste regulations.

• Reviewing options to reduce outdoor irrigation at parks, city government’s largest water consumer.

• Restarting the Turf Replacement Rebate Program to encourage residents to invest in replacing their water inefficient turf with native and/or drought tolerant landscaping. (

• Halting the use of potable water to irrigate turf landscaped medians throughout the city.

“In the wake of Gov. Brown’s mandates, these actions will help limit water waste and offer incentives for San Diegans to conserve,” Mayor Faulconer said. “San Diego has been a statewide leader, cutting water use by double-digit numbers since 2007 – the last time our state faced a severe water crisis. But the past four years of unrelenting drought and record heat are moving California into uncharted territory. I’m confident we can lead by example once again because wasting water is never an option.”

To help meet the governor’s water reduction mandate, Mayor Faulconer has directed the Public Utilities Department to begin issuing formal warnings and fines for water waste violations. No one will receive a fine without first receiving a written warning.

San Diegans are encouraged to use the “Waste No Water” app on their smart phones to help report and stop water waste. Go to the app store on your iPhone or Android device and search for “Waste No Water” to download the app.

“San Diego needs to consider multiple solutions to reduce our water usage and ensure a lasting water supply; no one solution is the answer,” Council President Lightner said. “Water is too important to our economy and quality of life to not pursue all options to secure an affordable and reliable water supply in the face of this continuing drought.”

One of city government’s biggest water uses is park irrigation. Mayor Faulconer has directed the Park & Recreation Department to identify specific measures to reduce potable water use. Staff is currently reviewing options, including:

  1. Cutting back or eliminating watering in small and passive parks.
  2. Reducing potable water use at City golf courses.
  3. Evaluating existing landscaping for possible replacement when appropriate.

The specific actions to reduce water use in city parks will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Every drop of drinking water that is used to water lawns, wash cars or fill swimming pools means that thousands of gallons of water will no longer be available to drink, fight fires or grow food,” Councilmember Zapf said. “Making smart choices with the water we have now will go a long way toward ensuring that California’s water supply will be available when we need it most.”

Beginning April 15, the City is restarting its Turf Replacement Rebate Program. It provides rebates to residents who invest in replacing their water inefficient turf with native or drought resistant landscaping. Mayor Faulconer has set aside $200,000 for the program through June 30, with an additional $250,000 included in the Mayor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget to be released next week.

To learn more about water conservation rebates and services, visit

The final action by the City is to comply with a specific mandate in Gov. Brown’s executive order that prohibits the use of potable water to irrigate turf-landscaped medians. Landscaped medians that do not use recycled water will go brown to comply with the order. Trees in those medians will continue to be irrigated only as necessary to keep them healthy and prevent potential public safety hazards that can occur from dying trees.

As a reminder, the following mandatory measures have been in effect in San Diego since Nov. 1, 2014:

• Watering only during 3 assigned days per week

• Limiting the use of fire hydrants to fire fighting, construction, health and safety

• No irrigation during rain

• All leaks need to be fixed upon discovery

• Using hose with a shutoff nozzle or timer for irrigation

• Using recycled water for construction purposes, when available

• All decorative water fountains can be operated only for maintenance

• Restaurants shall only serve and refill water for patrons upon request

• Guests in hotels will be provided the option of not laundering towels and linens daily.