by Supervisor Dave Roberts
The Golden State
is rapidly turning brown thanks to three back-to-back dry years. Combined with an increasing demand for fresh water, conservation is becoming an
increasingly important piece of our water supply puzzle. Nearly five months ago state officials declared a drought emergency. They urged the
public to use 20 percent less water. With voluntary reductions falling short of projected targets, the State Water Resources Control Board is now moving forward with steep fines for water
waste. Watering sidewalks or ignoring restrictions on the timing and frequency of watering lawns could soon get you a fine.
This might not
change for quite a while. Our reservoirs and mountain snow packs are at near-record low levels. Bone-dry conditions have communities bracing for another dangerous wildfire season. Even farmers are
struggling. Without water, their livelihood is at stake. For Californians who are already taking steps to use less water, we must find ways to
help them do even more. And for those who haven’t been willing, or able to cut their water use, something needs to be done.
The good news is
that many communities are beginning to implement conservation measures that actually work. Some utility bills feature water-use report cards. Other counties and cities offer personalized tips for
cutting back. Even “cash for grass” programs that pay people to trade water-guzzling lawns for drought-resistant landscaping, are now in place. I
partnered with Chairwoman Dianne Jacob to bring forward a county program titled, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). This program helps residential property owners purchase water-conservation and
energy-efficiency upgrades by financing them through their property tax bill.
The HERO Program has now been launched under PACE. This program will support investments that make conservation
seamless for homeowners, like water-conserving sprinklers, high-efficiency shower heads and toilets, and other devices that cut water use without changing habits. HERO and other PACE financing programs have been shown to generate jobs and economic activity. More than 150 cities in California have embraced PACE programs. The HERO
program alone, which specializes in residential PACE financing, has supported $250 million in projects and helped create more than 2,400 jobs in California since launching in 2011.
enables homeowners to finance thousands of options for water conservation, as well solar power panel installations and energy-saving windows and doors. These improvements can increase property values
and lower utility bills–and the interest payments are tax deductible. Everybody wins – and, best of all, San Diego County is likely to see
tremendous water savings through the program. In fact, a recent National Resources Defense Council report found that California residential users could improve water-use efficiency by as much as 60
percent through PACE.
No one program,
of course, is going to solve our water crisis. We have had three straight years of drought. In fact, a federal National Climate Assessment, produced by hundreds of scientists, says much of the
Southwest will eventually get hotter and drier. As we adapt to a drier future, San Diego County will keep developing innovative programs to help
people make positive changes for themselves and their community.
Supervisor Dave Roberts represents San Diego County’s Third District on the Board of