Drought Information

Drought Information

11:05 18 June in News

Update  – New Desalination Plant Delivers Drought-Relief to Otay Customers

An ocean water desalination plant is now delivering high-quality drinking water to San Diego County customers. Since this is a new drinking water supply, the State of California has lowered mandatory conservation targets for homes and businesses served by the plant.

Otay Water District’s new conservation target is 12 percent based on your 2013 usage. The State’s conservation order runs through October 31, 2016.

This is good news for neighborhoods and ratepayers because it recognized local efforts to improve our water supply as well as community-wide sacrifices that save water. To calculate your lower water conservation target, please visit www.otaywater.gov/calculator.

Thank you for your support of water conservation.

Statewide Mandatory Water Conservation began June 1, 2015

150115-California-DroughtIn April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown issued a series of executive orders to address California’s ongoing drought, including establishing a goal to reduce urban potable water use by 25 percent statewide. The governor’s action was in response to unprecedented drought conditions that had caused record low water levels in state water reservoirs and only 5 percent of historical snowfall levels recorded in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the 2015 water year.

In response, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) on May 5, 2015, adopted emergency regulations mandating all urban water suppliers cut potable water use by 8 to 36 percent, depending on their residential gallons-per-capita-per-day average from July-September 2013.

The Otay Water District’s Board of Directors then adopted Ordinance No. 551, which declared a State Drought Emergency and called for mandatory water conservation measures to achieve the state’s mandated conservation targets.

california_drought_nolifeguardThe regulations were intended to safeguard potable water supplies and to minimize potential waste and the unreasonable use of water. Mandatory water conservation began June 1, 2015. The emergency regulations have since been extended by the SWRCB through October 31, 2016.  

As a result of state action, the following practices became prohibited:

  • Irrigating more than 2 days per week or irrigation that results in runoff
  • Irrigation during a rainstorm and for 48 hours after measurable rainfall
  • Using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle
  • Irrigation with potable water of ornamental turf on public street medians
  • Washing down driveways, patios and sidewalks (health and safety reasons excepted)

In addition, restaurants were required to only serve water to customers upon request and hotels and motels were required to offer their guests the option to not have their linens and towels laundered daily, and prominently display this option in each guest room.

In the Otay Water District’s service area, there are no watering schedules based on even or odd-numbered addresses. Customers must irrigate before 10:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. to reduce water loss due to evaporation.

Otay Water District asks its customers to do their part to save water. The 2016 target is 12 percent. To get your conservation target, based on 2013 usage, please use the Water Savings Target Calculator. Be prepared to enter your 9-digit account number. The 9-digit account number is located in the upper right hand corner of your water bill, and on the remittance section at the bottom. More information about water use is located in the Meter Information section of the bill in units and gallons per day. One “unit” equals 748 gallons of water.

Ways to save water include:

  • Fix all leaks immediatelyIt’s estimated ten percent of all homes have a leak that wastes 90 gallons of water every day. Common leaks include worn toilet flappers or dripping faucets. Fixing leaks saves water and can save about 10 percent on your monthly water bill.
  • Take advantage of rebates and incentivesInterest in rebates for high efficiency clothes washers and toilets, rotary sprinkler nozzles, and turf replacement have been overwhelming. Funding is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is subject to availability of funds. Don’t delay. To get your rebate visit socalwatersmart.com today.
  • Monitor your irrigationIrrigation accounts for 50 to 60 percent of your monthly water use, with as much as half of that water wasted due to over-watering or runoff. Learn to adjust your irrigation controller to avoid over-watering (user manuals for most models can be found online). Check soil moisture regularly and adjust your watering schedule monthly. Turn your irrigation system off when rain is projected. Also, check sprinklers regularly looking for broken and clogged heads, or over spray. Consider upgrading to rotary sprinkler nozzles, a drip irrigation system or a weather “Smart” irrigation controller.  
  • Eliminate unused turfRemove unused turf and focus efficient irrigation practices on active turf, trees or vegetable gardens. The drought is forcing everyone to make difficult decisions because restricting irrigation will stress your plants and even kill some turf. Prioritize areas that will and won’t get water this summer, irrigating only high value areas.

Thank you for your support of water conservation. Each individual effort adds up and helps to protect our water supply as the drought continues. For more information, please visit our Drought Frequently Asked Questions page.


Click on image to visit the U.S. Drought Monitor website.

In 2015, California entered its fourth consecutive year of below-average rainfall and very low snow pack, with the majority of the state experiencing exceptional drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In addition, eight of the previous nine years, including Water Year 2015, have had below average runoff. This resulted in chronic and significant shortages to municipal, industrial, agricultural, and wildlife refuge supplies and historically low groundwater levels.

As a result of these drought conditions, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a proclamation of a State of Emergency and directed the State Water Board and other agencies to take various actions to respond to the drought. The Governor has since issued additional proclamations and executive orders extending and expanding the provisions of the prior proclamation.

For more about the statewide drought, please visit the Emergency Water Conservation website.
To learn more about the state’s drought response, visit ca.gov/Drought/.
Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com


Helpful Information

The watering schedule restrictions do not apply to the following:

  • Irrigation systems using water efficient devices such as “Smart” irrigation controllers, drip or micro-irrigation, and rotating sprinklers nozzles
  • Commercial nurseries
  • Landscapes irrigated using drought-proof recycled water including parks, golf courses, open space, and freeway landscaping such as those in the city of Chula Vista.

If you do not have a “Smart” controller with a moisture sensor, or an irrigation system utilizing the latest high-efficiency rotary sprinkler nozzles, incentives and rebates are available for customers interested in utilizing these water conserving technologies. For more information and to learn about money saving rebates, please visit any of the Conservation pages above.

Thank you for your support of water conservation. Each individual effort adds up and helps to protect our water supply as the drought continues. For more information, please visit our Drought Frequently Asked Questions page.

Landscape Tips

Did you know that approximately 50 – 60 percent of residential water use in Southern California is applied to landscapes? Did you know that half of that water is wasted due to over-watering and runoff? Old, inefficient sprinkler systems can easily be wasting hundreds of gallons of water, spraying the house wall, sidewalk, and applying water too quickly leading to runoff. There are many ways to use water more efficiently in your landscape.

“Smart” Irrigation Controllers

Consider investing in a weather based irrigation controller that records daily climate data to modify the watering schedule to apply water only when necessary. Weather based or “smart” irrigation controllers work in one of two ways: they either have an on-site weather monitor that detects local temperature data and measures rainfall; or rely on a service that transmits local weather data to the controller. Using either option, smart controllers adjust the watering schedule to your daily climate conditions.  For more information on qualifying products and to review an application, visit SoCalWaterSmart.com.


Save water by manually turning on your sprinklers and check for obstructions such as tall grass, leaves or branches, broken or clogged heads, or over-spray. If your sprinklers are misting, your water pressure is too high. Standard fixed pop-up sprinklers can also apply water too quickly and be hard to adjust, leading to runoff, over-spray onto the house, fences, or the sidewalk.

Rotating sprinkler nozzles, on the other hand, typically apply water at half an inch per hour, which is three times less than the amount of water applied by standard fixed spray pop-up sprinklers. This lower application rate of rotating nozzles results in less runoff and allows the water to more readily be absorbed by the soil. These sprinkler nozzles also distribute water more uniformly since their design provides streams of water that are less vulnerable to windy conditions. A $4 per nozzle rebate is also available.

Adjust your watering schedule at least once a month. If you see runoff after only a few minutes, shorten your watering times and use multiple start times to apply the right amount of water. If you are not sure how much to water your grass, roses or drought tolerant plants, use the Landscape Water Use Calculator  and provide responses to all the required data fields. If rain is in the forecast, turn off your irrigation system and leave it off for at least 48 hours after any measurable rainfall.


Most lawns in Southern California are cool season fescue varieties that require a lot of water to survive during the warm summer months.  If looking for ways to save water, look for alternatives to your water guzzling grass.  Alternative options include warm season grasses like Bermuda or St. Augustine that need 30 percent less water or drought tolerant plants that need approximately 60 percent less water. Dymondia, buffalo grass and carex are also groundcovers and low water use alternatives to grass.

Checking Soil Moisture

Appropriate soil moisture is critical for growing plants successfully. For most plants, too much water is more dangerous than not enough. The key to minimizing water use and maximizing plant health is to learn how to gauge soil moisture effectively, and to water plants only when they need it and not necessarily on a set schedule.

There are numerous ways to check soil moisture. When it comes to testing for moisture, the feel of the soil is the best guide. This can be done by sticking a finger in the soil. It can also be done using a wooden dowel. Insert the dowel into the soil. If it comes out clean, the soil is dry. Damp soil will cling to the dowel.

Soil moisture monitoring can also be achieved with specific tools like a soil probe. A variety of simple, inexpensive soil moisture meters are available at local garden centers and nurseries. The meters will tell you if the soil is wet, moist, or dry at the root level.

When to Water

The need for water also varies widely depending on the plant. For turf grass, do not begin watering again until the top one to two inches of soil are dry. It’s okay to let lawns show signs of stress in the midst of this extended drought. Lawns that lose their green luster will rejuvenate with the next irrigation cycle or rain.

Succulents and drought tolerant plants, on the other hand, require dry soil and won’t need water for a month, or even months, after the rain.  The first basic irrigation scheduling rule for succulents or drought tolerant plans is never water if the soil is still wet. For established drought tolerant plants, this is the worst possible thing to do.

Plants wilt for any number of reasons other than needing water. Wilting in established drought tolerant plants is often the first sign of too much water. Roots die from too much water, then the plant wilts from lack of water uptake. Some drought tolerant plans also fold their leaves on hot afternoons to conserve water, which can be mistaken for wilting. Never assume a plant needs to be watered because it looks wilted. Check to see if the soil is moist first.