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Beyond Drought: What’s Next for the San Diego Region?

While the State Water Board eased its drought restrictions last week, Governor Jerry Brown recently issued an executive order “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life”.

Based on local research summarized by The San Diego Foundation and Climate Education Partners, we know our region has a drier future ahead of us which we need to prepare for.

By working together and investing today, philanthropists, nonprofits, government and businesses can build a more resilient water future for the San Diego region and adapt to this “new normal”.

Already our region has reduced potable water use by 21 percent within the last year, according to the San Diego County Water Authority.

Are you taking steps to conserve water at home or at work?
Share your efforts in the comments below!

A Parched Future Poses New Risks

Despite some reprieve from El Niño precipitation, 90 percent of California remains locked in drought heading into the summer. And the issue goes beyond California’s borders.

The San Diego region receives over 60 percent of its water from the Colorado River system, which has been in severe drought for 16 years.

Beyond Drought

Water levels in the major reservoirs on the Colorado River that supply water to San Diego are at historic lows. Demand for the river’s water already outstrips supply, and with population growth, warmer temperatures and extended droughts predicted by scientists, water challenges will be exacerbated.

By mid-century, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego predict 16 percent fewer rainy days and a decrease in runoff that replenishes our major water sources in San Diego County.

While these impacts are concerning, especially because of their potential economic impacts on our region, we are already seeing exciting efforts in every sector to conserve water and stretch our existing supplies.

Working Together, Investing Today

Through our Climate Initiative, The San Diego Foundation invested more than $300,000 in grants in 2015 to cities, public agencies and their partners from civic organizations to build regional resilience to the impacts of climate change.

For example, the Center for Sustainable Energy is reaching out to hundreds of municipal employees from the cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Escondido, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar and Chula Vista to provide guidance on turf removal, drought-resistant landscaping and related rebates to increase employee water savings in their homes.

Over 8 million gallons of water are estimated to already have been saved during the first phase of the pilot project.

Learn More

San Diegans care about climate change and are particularly concerned about its impact on our water supplies. A vast majority (almost 80 percent) of San Diegans believe they can do more to reduce water use in their yards or homes.

Discover more about what San Diegans think about the impact of climate change on water resources here.

In the coming months, The Foundation will continue to provide thought leadership and funding for water and climate resilience planning and implementation. We are currently participating in a statewide cohort of community foundations working to share best practices, funding, research and convening strategies to help address California’s water challenges.

We welcome your ideas and comments on how, together, we can ensure an abundant and resilient clean water supply for our economy, quality of life and future generations. Share your comments below!

Learn More

Are you taking steps to conserve water at home or at work? Share your efforts in the comments below!


About Nicola Hedge, MPIA

Nicola Hedge, MPIANicola leads implementation of The San Diego Foundation’s environmental initiatives, working with donors, nonprofits, business and government partners to advance community efforts that protect our region’s clean air and water, natural resources and quality of life. Nicola joined The Foundation after working as a field research manager for a World Bank research project in rural Malawi and earning a master’s degree from UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.

Read more posts by Nicola

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