Do you know where your water comes from? Do you know where it goes after it runs down your drain?
I didn’t either, so in these troubled times when most media outlets are up and arms about the California drought, I went directly to the Otay Water District to find out.
The General Manager, Mark Watton, and the Otay team of employees were friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about water. In addition, I got the feeling they wished more citizens knew about their work because water, after all, is our most essential human resource.
On the other hand, if I can summarize California water in one word, I would say: CONFUSING.
No one entity has control over our local or state water. Instead, there are a massive array of entities that work together to bring us our water.
Hold onto your hats! I learned four facts:
1) There is no water in San Diego and there has never been any water. We live in San Diego County, which has not been able to accommodate the water needs of the population since at least 1909 when San Diego experienced the worst drought in history. That drought lasted 4 years.
San Diego is semi-arid desert terrain. There is very little water and there hasn’t been much water since 3,500 years ago. So when people tell you there’s a drought, you can say that there hasn’t been enough water since non-Native Americans settled the region.
2) As a consequence, San Diego County must import about 85% of its water. Rainwater, in good years, only accounts for about 5-10% maximum of water supplies.
3) For a Southern California population that ranges in the millions, importing our water means we need to conserve.
4) The Otay Water District has plentiful water for its customers and always plans ahead for being able to accommodate future growth. There is no imminent apocalypse, where suddenly one day nothing will come out of your tap and you’ll be dead in three days.
Water Issues For Laypeople
Water can get very complicated, both on the technology level and on the administrative level. I’ve distilled my visit down into a three parts. Some will be able to skim the posts and others might want to sink their teeth into more information.
The most important takeaway from my visit: your water and your water district is a public entity. It has a board with public meetings. Most of the board members are your elected officials.
If you have concerns about our drought, don’t sit back passively thinking armageddon is going to occur. Get involved!
Know who your elected water officials are. Contact them. Go to the meetings. Understand how to make our water safe, plentiful and environmentally friendly.
South Bay Water Districts
Again, water is complicated, but South Bay regions and cities are under the jurisdiction of separate water districts, each of which buys their water from different places and has their own reservoirs, pump stations and recycling facilities: Sweetwater Authority, City of San Diego, Cal-American and Otay Water District.
You can see which water district you fall under, who your representatives are and how you can go to the meetings on each of their websites.
And now — Welcome to water: