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Sherri Lightner's Proposed Water Policy Statement: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

In San Diego, we have major water issues.  After all, we live in a desert, and water resources are precious. 

Yesterday NPR reported on local city council member, Sheri Lightner’s  recent memo which calls for “Developing a Comprehensive Policy for a Sustainable Water Supply.”

Overall we applaud Ms. Lightner for calling for such a policy.  We agree that having 20-year old practices, inconsistent with the latest findings and studies in water science and management are bad for San Diego.  And, overall we like her proposed ideas, especially calling for greater conservation, and using low impact development. There are, however, two proposals in her memo which are bad for the environment and for the taxpayers of a cash-strapped city that is drastically cutting back on services.  These proposals we are wary of, are the implementation of  Desalination Factories and Purple Pipe. Shouldn't we seriously address our wasteful water consumption habits first before turning to expensive new supply sources? 

Desalination and Purple Pipe are two of the most expensive options, and are harmful to the environment.

  • Putting desalination factories in Mexico distresses us because it's likely an attempt to skirt the precious environmental laws that protect our state.  And doing so, is not being a good neighbor.  Added importation costs from across the border makes the desal option an even worse one.  Will we really pay to push water from the playas of Mexico to the suburbs of Carmel Valley?  Can you imagine what that costs?  What about the energy used?  Who is paying for all of this?  You and me?
    • Purple pipe, (called that because of its color,) would require a redundant system of pipes to be erected all over the city. The City of San Diego isn't even properly replacing worn infrastructure, so having the funds for an entirely new pipe system is very unlikely and for what?  To keep our lawns green?    We say, kill your lawns in La Jolla, and go native!  If there is money, it should be spent instead to re-contour our neighborhoods to capture more rainwater and add it to the ground-water supply or through individual gray water recycling both for indoor and outdoor uses.  Another easy start would be to promote the idea of rain barrels. 

    If all of Ms. Lightner’s district implemented Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden principals in their gardens, they would cut their water use by 50%.  You read that right - FIFTY PERCENT!

    Underlying "OFG" is CPR, which in this case stands for Conservation, Permeability and Retention.  By rethinking their green spaces  through using beautiful native plants and implementing proper drip irrigation, San Diegans can achieve great results.  This is proper water management, and effective water policy for a sustainable future.
    The City's Water Purification Demonstration Project is a good first step to eventual full scale potable reuse of water instead of dumping a precious resource into the ocean, (only to later pull it out via desalination!) 

    Council member Lightner, let’s start by getting your district to cut its water use in half, then let's go on to the rest of the City.  By the time we have slashed water consumption in the city, the Water Purification Project will have concluded successfully and then a more fiscally robust City of San Diego can then chart a more sustainable water future.
    This blog post was written by Johnny Pappas, and Belinda Smith for the local chapter of Surfrider Foundation, San Diego County.  They work on Policy and the Know Your H2O campaign respectively.