When In Drought – California’s Water Crisis

October 22nd, 2016 by Kirk Harrell

After four years of extremely dry, drought-like conditions across California, statewide water supply conditions are among the most challenging in decades. The snow pack water content in the Sierra Nevada on was just 5 percent of average on April 1, prompting an executive order by the governor to reduce urban water use statewide by 25 percent. This drought is obviously very concerning as a citizen of California, but how will it effect us as owners and tenants.


In an effort to reach the 25 percent goal set by the governor, the City of San Diego is enforcing the watering schedule of 2 times per week, for 5 minutes per day for standard sprinkler systems. The time which watering occurs is also being scheduled, between 6pm and 10am, this applies to all types of irrigation (sprinkler, drip- irrigation, hand watering, etc.)

Some other restrictions to be aware of:

  • Ornamental fountain operation is to be stopped, except to the extent needed for maintenance purposes.
  • Irrigation is not permitted during or for at least 48 hours after a rain event.
  • The washing of automobiles, trucks, trailers and other types of transportation is only allowed between 6 pm and 10 am. Though washing is permitted anytime at a commercial car wash and for boat and boat engines after use.
San Diego New Drought-Time Irrigation Restrictions

A handy reminder of San Diego’s new drought-time irrigation restrictions

Drought-Time Penalties

City staff issue Notices of Violations in response to confirmed water-waste complaints. A Notice of Violation does not carry any monetary penalty. The next step in enforcement is an Administrative Citation. These citations carry fines of $100, $250, $500 and up to $1,000.

If a violation is reported but not verified, or there is no evidence linking the waste to a customer, then a warning notification is issued instead of a Notice of Violation. The case is assigned to a Code Enforcement Officer who will then follow up with a site visit to verify if corrective action has taken place. If not, an Administrative Citation can be issued on the spot.

Violations are treated per property, not fixture. A property owner who has been given a Notice of Violation for a broken sprinkler head can be issued an Administrative Citation for the next violation observed on the same property, even if it is a different leak or broken fixture.

10 Tips to Help Conserve Water During a Drought

1. Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, shave or scrub a dish. Save 2 gallons per minute

No matter how mesmerizing it is to watch water go down the drain while brushing your teeth, it’s not worth the cost! Save that precious resource for the moments you actually need it. When shaving, you can use a bowl with a small amount of water to rinse your razor between swipes. For washing dishes, just turn off the faucet while you scrub. These small habits make a big difference in water efficiency.

2. Take a shorter shower and collect water for plants while the water is warming up. Save 2.5 gallons per minute

You don’t have to tough it out like a Navy SEAL in an icy shower to make the most of your shower water. You can catch the cold water in a bucket until you’re ready to get in. Then use that captured water for watering plants, or even cleaning (like mopping).

3. Scrape food waste from dishes and cookware into the garbage instead of rinsing it down the drain. Save up to 20 gallons

Save the strain on your drain! Instead of running that disposal into the ground, just toss your scraps into the trash. Better yet do some digging on how to compost. Many food scraps can serve the greater purpose of fertilizing your yard.

4. Program your dishwasher to skip the pre-rinse and extra-rinse cycles. Save 2-4 gallons per load

Of course we all need clean dishware, but the extra cycles aren’t necessary. Scrub your dishes a little before putting them in the dishwasher, and they’ll come out sparkling clean. Our community and your toned arms will thank you.

5. Wash only full loads of laundry. Save up to 50 gallons per load

You can wait to wash that super cute new sweater you just bought until you have a full load of laundry to throw in the washer. There’s no need to forego wardrobe hygiene, but to maximize laundry efficiency, wait until you have a full bundle before running the washing machine. Let those forgotten favorites see the light of day and save money on both your water and electricity bills.

6. Use a hose nozzle that shuts off when you release the handle. Save up to 18 gallons per minute

Pull the trigger and get just the amount of water you need from the hose. Avoid excessive run-off and puddles with a relatively inexpensive nozzle. This simple precision tool will make watering and car washing more efficient and turn you into a weekend warrior master.

7. Water in the early morning to minimize evaporation. Save 20-25 gallons per day

When you take your morning coffee, your plants can take their morning watering. Watering in the early morning hours will help your plants beat the heat throughout the week, because less water will evaporate during cooler morning temps.

8. Turn off your irrigation 1-3 days before it’s expected to rain. Turn it back on when your soil is dry. If you’re not sure when your soil is dry, use a moisture meter to check. Savings vary

If rain is in the forecast, take advantage of the free sprinkle, it’s exactly what we need during a drought! Most plants don’t need water every day to survive; many even do best when their roots get the chance to dry out a little. Check up on the specific needs of your plants and plan accordingly taking weather into account.

9. Inspect and adjust over spraying sprinklers. Save up to 10 gallons per minute per leak

Don’t water your driveway! Or your fence, side of the house, or any other inanimate objects. Make sure the water you’re using gets to where it belongs. Tightening up the spray radius may be all it takes to become more efficient. Sprinklers come with varying spray patterns, so it may be best to invest in a new one with a better fit for your yard.

10. Maintain Your Mulch. Savings vary

Maintaining a three-inch layer of mulch around trees and plants protects soil from direct sunlight and evaporation. It also absorbs water, reducing runoff and providing more moisture for your soil.


It is important that we all, tenants, owners and property managers alike, pitch in and do our part to try and reduce the effects of this drought, together we can make a difference. For more drought information or water-saving resources please visit some of the links below:

City of San Diego Water Conservation – Drought Alert

Water Smart San Diego – Drought Info

San Diego County Water Authority – Water Shortage & Drought Response

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