As we confront one of the most severe droughts on record and a statewide mandate to cut urban water use back by 25 percent, water agencies, cities, businesses and citizens are looking for innovative ways to increase our local water supply.

In the scramble for solutions, it’s always good to look back at those steps already taken, albeit unsuccessfully.

History of Drought in San Diego

Did you know that 100 years ago, the City of San Diego hired a rainmaker?

In 1915, several dry years had left the city and its growing population wanting for water, so the City hired Charles Hatfield for a reported $1,000 for every inch of water he added to local reservoirs.

Not surprisingly, things did not end up as planned.

Although there is no rainmaker to rescue us from the current drought, the good news is there’s a lot that we can still do by continuing to work together and investing today in more water efficient communities.
San Diego, California Drought

San Diego Climate: Warm and Dry

While so many of us choose to live in San Diego for benefits of the warm, Mediterranean climate, we also know that comes with limited rain and snow to create local water supplies. In fact, local supplies only account for approximately 17 percent of the water supplies for the San Diego region.

As such, our region’s economic vitality has always been tied to availability of clean water supplies from local and imported sources to serve what are now more than 3 million residents and a $200 billion regional economy.

Looking ahead, these challenges are only going to be exacerbated by climate change. According to the San Diego, 2050 is Calling: How Will We Answer report:

  • Our region’s water demand is expected to increase by 46 percent by 2035 due to our growing population, rising temperatures, longer intervals without rain and increased evaporation from the soil and water reservoirs.
  • Local water supplies will be under stress from more intense and frequent drought.
  • Water availability from both our biggest sources – Sierra Nevada (via the State Water Project) and the Colorado River – will also be under more stress from warming temperatures and more extended droughts that reduce the amount of snowpack and river flow in those regions.

San Diego Drought

When in Drought – Save Every Day, Every Way

The regional When in Drought campaign calls for all of us to work together to save water “every day in every way.”  In May, the San Diego County Water Authority called for further water conservation requiring all San Diegans throughout the region to water lawns no more than twice a week.

You can even go one step further by challenging a friend or neighbor or coworker to follow your lead!

Learn how you can provide support to our region’s natural resources, economic prosperity and quality of life through The San Diego Foundation’s Fund for the Future.

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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.

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