San Diego’s Water Supply

There is not a moment (or drop) to waste! san diego drinking water

San Diego County does not have enough local water supply to meet our demands. Our county draws 80 percent of our drinkable water from outside the area. In the City of San Diego, that number soars to 90 percent. In doing so, we suck over half of what we use from the Colorado River (named the Most Endangered River in America in 2013) and almost another half from the San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California.

Importing water to San Diego means using energy, a lot of it. According to the California Energy Commission, water-related energy use throughout the state consumes 19 percent of California’s electricity, consumes 32 percent of the state’s natural gas supplies and uses 88 million gallons of diesel, exacerbating climate change concerns.

San Diego Coastkeeper partners with a variety of organizations to research and advocate for solutions. The Equinox Center published a report in 2010 that provides a non-partisan, independent analysis of water supply alternatives. Read the report.

Without substantial changes, turning on a tap in San Diego County will continue to become more expensive and will remain unsustainable. So we have to make important decisions now to reduce our water demand and develop local, sustainable supplies.

A new vision for water management

We must change the way we discuss water. Stormwater, wastewater and drinking water together are a comprehensive water quality and water supply system, not isolated issues.

wastewater recylingSan Diego Coastkeeper helps in the development of an integrated regional water plan that addresses San Diego County’s water supply issues by prioritizing conservation and water reuse and recycling before more expensive and environmental harmful options like water imports and desalination.

Following nearly two decades of advocacy by San Diego Coastkeeper and our partners, in 2013, the City of San Diego councilmembers unanimously supported Pure Water San Diego, a plan to transform the city’s wastewater management system into a source of at least 15 million gallons per day by 2023 and 83 million gallons per day of clean, pure drinking water by 2035. This strategy could supply almost one third of City of San Diego’s current water use.

We will see Pure Water San Diego come to fruition in a visionary, responsible manner by working with city, regional and state decision-makers. Although City Council unanimously approved Pure Water, the program still requires substantial investments. The City recently approved a water rate hike, and it will pursue federal and state grants and low-interest loans to create this regionally important water supply.

As well, realizing the benefits of Pure Water San Diego will require the support of federal and state representatives. This support includes policy, funding and regulatory elements:

  • Policy – Recycling wastewater into drinking water should be explicitly encouraged in state and federal legislation as a source of reliable water to support our economy and quality of life.
  • Funding – Potable reuse will require funding to build conveyance and treatment infrastructure that produces region-wide benefits
  • Regulatory – Prudent State and federal regulations to support the development of potable reuse should be expedited.

Sign up for a tour of the demonstration project to learn more. Or read the 2005 Water Reuse Study that put the plan in motion.

Coastkeeper represents this thinking at the state level as a stakeholder on the planning group for the Integrated Regional Water Management program, a local water resources management approach preferred by the governor, California Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board. It aims to secure long-term water supply reliability within California by connecting water supply and the environment and pursuing projects that benefit water supplies, water quality and our community. (back to top)

Help ensure San Diego’s supply of clean water

You can make simple changes at home to conserve water and reduce our need. You can learn more about water supply options such as conservation, wastewater recycling, rain water harvesting, graywater harvesting and desalination. Sign up for our electronic news to learn about upcoming hearings encouraging smart reuse and opportunities for you to support environmentally protective decision-making. (back to top)