Water Shortage and Drought Response

The Water Authority has plans in place to help manage demand during times of limited supply.


To help the San Diego region manage water resources when supplies are tight, the Water Authority’s board, in August 2017, approved the Water Shortage Contingency Plan (WSCP). This comprehensive shortage planning document outlines a series of orderly, progressive steps for the Water Authority to take during shortages to minimize impacts to the region’s economy and quality of life.

The Water Authority’s previous shortage planning document, the Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan (WSDRP), was effectively activated in 2014 and deactivated in 2016. The current WSCP expands upon the WSDRP to provide a more comprehensive document and includes updated information, such as a modernized communication strategy. Shortage planning documents, like the WSCP, play a key role in helping the region manage challenging water supply conditions.

Another important tool to help the region manage water shortages is the Water Authority’s Model Drought Response Ordinance (Ordinance). Approved by the Water Authority’s board in March 2008, the Ordinance serves as a guide for the Water Authority’s member agencies. It identifies four levels of drought response with progressive water-use restrictions that are designed to align demand with supply during water shortages. Member agencies have used the model to create or update their own local ordinances.

While managing shortages is important, so is the wise use of water no matter the weather. That’s true partly because the state has mandated a 20 percent reduction in water use by 2020 – but the “watersmart” ethic in San Diego County goes beyond that. Most residents realize that they live in an arid climate where most of the water used must be imported from faraway sources, and they view water-use efficiency as a civic duty.

The Water Authority has diversified its portfolio of supplies so that it’s not dependent on any single source for the majority of its water. The Water Authority also has worked diligently to reduce the potential for a major water shortage through a series of investments in new facilities that are part of its Emergency Storage Project. In addition, the Water Authority promotes ongoing efforts to improve water-use efficiency in homes, businesses and public places across the region.