Water conservation is one of the biggest issues facing San Diego today. San Diego imports between 80 and 90% of our water. With an increasing population and decreasing water availability, we have an obligation to conserve water in every way we can. In addition, with climate change our city will only get hotter and drier, while rainfall becomes concentrated into fewer, more intense rain events. This leaves us exposed to the devastating effects of storm surge, flash flooding, and water shortages that result from water moving quickly from mountains to the ocean, instead of percolating slowly into reservoirs and water storage facilities. For all these reasons, San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) lays out a number of solutions that we must stay focused on implementing promptly.
San Diego already has planned the PURE water program, which purifies wastewater and recycles water for daily use. I will ensure the PURE water program is implemented on time and the city remains committed to water recycling. I will promote and expand existing city programs for water capture, low-water irrigation, and drought-friendly native landscaping on private property. I will also expand education efforts about water conservation and simple things citizens can do every day that cumulatively save millions of gallons of water. (for some example local, fun facts about water use and water conservation in San Diego see http://www.sandiego.gov/water/conservation/kids/funfacts.shtml
Currently, more than half of our water use is for outdoor landscaping, particularly in the hotter months of the year. To conserve water and money, I will ensure native landscaping is in our city parks, playgrounds, schoolyards, community spaces, and even golf courses. Native plants can look good, provide habitat for native wildlife, and require less water than many of the plants we currently plant and maintain.
On city-owned areas that must be paved, I will advocate for porous asphalt, which has a comparable lifespan to other asphalt but reduces runoff and erosion. I will promote developing green roofs on where rooftop solar is not feasible. To minimize the effects of storm surge, I support development setbacks from the coast, and maintaining and developing natural coastal wetland habitats that minimize the effects of sea level rise, such as Mission Bay, Scripps Coastal Reserve, and areas near the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. These areas also attract locals and tourists for recreation opportunities and provide economic assets for the city. Done well, water conservation efforts will save the city and citizens money, maintain our key revenue sources, reduce our dependence on imported water, and build resilience to the anticipated effects of storm surges and drought.