Climate Action Plan - Measure W-1.3
Reduce Potable Water Use
The County aims to use less potable water, which is water that is treated and safe to drink, at County facilities. By using water-wise landscaping and recycled water where possible, the County saves water and electricity.
- 2020 Target: Reduce potable water consumption by 15% below 2014 levels
- 2030 Target: Reduce potable water consumption by 20% below 2014 levels
Water Use at County Facilities
How are we doing?
To reduce County potable water use, in 2021 the County followed strict water wise landscaping design and the use of efficient water fixtures in the planning of new facilities to reduce water consumption to 407 million gallons (a 13% reduction below 2014 baseline levels). This is equivalent to the amount of water used by 16,160 San Diego county residents in a year. In addition, the County uses recycled water to minimize the use of potable water and greenhouse gas emissions from treating and transporting water to County facilities.
You can find examples of water efficient design at the Borrego Springs Library, Park, and Sheriff’s Office, which features southwest native plants, innovative water catchment systems, and a drip irrigation system that suits the desert environment.
The County is also evaluating options to increase the use of native plants in landscaping at County facilities to achieve a range of benefits including increasing drought tolerance.
How is this measured?
Water bills from the water authority provide information on the usage at County facilities. The County’s total use for the year is compared to 2014 levels to assess reduced potable water consumption. Based on water bill information and countywide Building Automation System data that monitors individual building performance, the County determines which facilities to conduct water audits to identify plumbing and irrigation retrofits.
Why is this important?
Reducing the use of potable water for non-drinking purposes, results in more efficient use of a precious resource and better energy savings. The extraction, treatment, and transportation of potable water to the San Diego region requires the use of electricity, so reducing the use of potable water avoids the potential emissions from fossil-fuel electricity generation and conserves a critical resource. When designing landscaping at County facilities, the County considers San Diego’s six climactic zones: Coastal Inland, Upland Central, Transition, Mountain, and Desert. Each zone varies in temperature, sun exposure, soil type, available water, and wind exposure. By choosing the right plants suitable to each zone for landscaping projects on County facilities, the County saves money on water and electric bills, reduces dependency on municipal water supply, minimizes the amount of polluted runoff, minimizes or protects against erosion, and supports and nurtures local endemic species of plants and animals.
Where are we going?
The County aims to reduce potable water consumption at County owned or leased facilities by 15% below 2014 levels by 2020 and 20% by 2030. The County will continue to implement water efficient improvements and retrofit projects, replace landscaping with artificial turf, mulch or xeriscape, and plant native plants suitable to the climactic zone, all strategies are intended to use less potable water for irrigation. The County is also transitioning to satellite-based “smart” irrigation controllers at County facilities, which regulate sprinkler use based on local weather conditions. New County facilities will continue to feature water efficient and water wise landscaping design such as the North Coastal Health and Human Services Agency Regional Center, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk East County, and the Santa Ysabel Nature Center.