Photo: Scene from California’s Department of Water Resources April 1 snow survey at Philips Station, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Photo Credit: Ken James / California Department of Water Resources
For the state of California’s water resources managers, April 1 marks the end of the wet part of the year and beginning of the dry part. On April 1, they measure how deep the snow is in the Sierra, calculate how much water is in the snow, and announce how much water we have to fill reservoirs, grow crops and support cities and jobs. Today’s announcement: get ready for another year of drought.

What happened?

Our wet season began in October 2021 with generous rain and record snowfall in October and December. But those conditions did not last for long. January, February and March 2022 were the driest three consecutive months in California’s recorded history. California’s largest reservoirs, already low after two years of drought, are not going to refill this year, leaving Californians to rely on other water resources.

What supplies do we have?

Thankfully, the San Diego region is not solely dependent on supplies from Northern California and has sufficient water supplies to make it through this drought. Over the last 30 years, Helix has worked with the San Diego County Water Authority and neighboring water agencies to prepare for water shortages like this one.

First, we negotiated with Imperial Valley farmers in 2003 to buy partial rights to their Colorado River water and use it in San Diego. Then we invested in desalination, recycled water, and potable reuse projects to give us reliable, drought-proof supplies. We are all using water more efficiently, too. We use 40% less water than we did in 1990. This is important because our water supplies go further and last longer when we use less water.

Shows the back side of Hoover Dam and low levels at Lake Mead
Most of the imported water Helix purchases comes from the Colorado River, which is experiencing over two decades of drought

What can we do to help?

Keep up the excellent work. Your water bills and commitment to water conservation are the reason we have the water we need. Our continued efforts to use water efficiently and conserve our precious water resources will ensure we have water for our future. Here are some ways that you can keep doing your part.

Good

1. Wash only full loads

Save time, water and energy when you wash only full loads in your clothes washing machine. Clothes washers use almost 20% of indoor water use. You can get a rebate for up to $85 on a new High-Efficiency Clothes Washer at socalwatersmart.com.

2. Shorten showers

Showers account for another 20% of all indoor water use. You can use less by keeping your showers short and using an efficient showerhead.

3. Water when needed

Water your plants when they need water. One easy way to do this is to install a weather-based irrigation controller. Regular controllers use the same weekly schedule to water your plants, regardless of the weather. Weather-based irrigation controllers automatically adjust your watering schedule based on local weather conditions using your home’s Wi-Fi or real-time sensor data. They can help reduce your outdoor water use by as much as 15%. Get a rebate of up to $200 on select controllers at socalwatersmart.com.

 

Better

1. Check your sprinklers

Test your irrigation system by running each zone. Walk each zone; look for wet areas, leaks or broken equipment. Look for low pressure in sprinklers, which often means that there could be a leak in that zone. Make repairs as needed.

2. Mulch your plants

Using mulch in your landscape helps your soil retain water, and reduce evaporation and damage from the sun. Place mulch above the soil in a 3 to 4-inch layer. Keep 3 to 5 inches away from the base of any shrub or tree. Use mulch to cover the soil in planters, walkways and bare soil areas between plants. Helix customers can still get a rebate of $25 per cubic yard, up to $100, when they install plant-based mulch and apply for the rebate.

3. Fix leaky toilets

Toilet leaks are a very common source of water waste. A leaking toilet can use over 3 gallons per minute, costing up to $45 per day in water use. Check for leaking toilets by placing food dye inside the toilet tank and waiting 30 minutes. If there is a leak, the dye will flow into the toilet bowl. Watch our video on how to check for toilet leaks and make repairs. 

walkway in home front yard showing mulch between low water use plants
Water-efficient landscapes can use up to 80% less water than traditional landscapes.

Best

1. Get a flow monitoring device

One of the best ways you can save water is to know how much you are using by using a flow monitoring device. These devices attach to your water meter or water line and give you real-time information about your water use. Get a rebate of $100 at socalwatersmart.com.

2. Upgrade to a WaterSmart landscape

WaterSmart landscapes use 50% or even up to 80% less water than traditional lawns. Get more beauty and function out of your landscape while using less water. You can also get a rebate of up to $3 per square foot at socalwatersmart.com.

3. Seek (free) professional help

Contact us for a free home water-use evaluation. We’ll send out an expert to look at your landscape, irrigation system and water-using fixtures, and provide you with site-specific water-saving recommendations. The service is free. Schedule an appointment with us at [email protected] or call us at 619-667-6226.

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