The Coast News Group

Escondido limits outdoor water use to seven minutes three times a week

ESCONDIDO — City Council approved restrictions to limit outdoor watering to three days per week for a maximum of seven minutes at a meeting on June 17.

Houses with odd numbered addresses may only water on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday while those with even number homes may only water on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.

Apartments, condos and businesses may water on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The restrictions are a response to San Diego County Water Authority’s May 14 ordinance limiting the region’s watering to two days a week.

It took the council three votes to come to an agreement.

The council considered assigned days for each address because it’d be easier for water officials to monitor and police.

Mayor Sam Abed was a champion of that plan.

“It’s easier for me to set the meter Monday and Thursday and forget about it. If we leave it up to the people, it’s not going to work. We’re not going to achieve the 20 percent (required cuts) if we leave it up to the people,” said Abed.

The city is required to cut water use 20 percent after resolutions passed in both the state and the county.

It also was a problem with the school district, which likely would have had to water on Fridays.

District officials expressed concerns that Friday is a busy day for athletics and a wet field could lead to safety issues.

Ultimately the council voted to give residents some flexibility in deciding which days to water.

Councilmembers John Masson and Mike Morasco sided together for the three-day option.

Masson argued that Escondido residents would have enough sense to know when and for how long they’ve watered.

The seven minutes for three times a day also meets the required 20 percent cut.

Abed and Councilmembers Olga Diaz and Ed Gallo couldn’t come to an agreement to pass a vote without Morasco and Masson.

Gallo wasn’t in favor of two fixed watering days and Abed wasn’t in favor of two flexible days.

Diaz said weather variability should dictate when people water their lawns.

“I feel like managing the water usage of landscapes should be a little bit more flexible than just specific days of the week,” Diaz said.

She gave the example that if it rained on a specific day people are assigned to water, and they don’t water their lawns, they lose a watering day.

Diaz also reasoned that watering days could come into conflict with religious observances.

If Escondido is 100 to 115 percent above the annual San Diego County Water Authority’s allotment, the city will be charged a penalty of about $1,400 per square acre-foot in addition to the rate already paid for water.

If the city is more than 115 percent over the allotment, the fine doubles.

Abed said he’s worried not choosing watering days would leave the city open to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.

Escondido Public Works Director Christopher McKinney said if residents and businesses are using too much water, it would be apparent almost immediately and council could take necessary action to try and further curb water use.

The water restrictions go into effect July 10.

If the three-day restriction doesn’t work, council has the opportunity to revisit the issue and make new ordinances that would be effective immediately.

The water restrictions don’t apply to Rincon Del Diablo customers.

Rincon customers are required to cut down water use to two days per week for a maximum of 10 minutes.

It is illegal for everyone to water within 48 hours of measurable rain.

Update: A past version of this story said Escondido Water customers could water three times a week on the day of their choosing. Customers have assigned days, according to their address.