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November 13, 2022

San Diego City Water Conservation Guidelines, Programs and Rebates for 2022

Water Conservation

Since June 10, 2022, permanent restrictions regarding water use have remained in place, regardless of San Diego’s current drought status. In order to promote the efficient use of water, San Diego City has a number of rebates available to its residents.

Graywater Rebate

Graywater is defined as untreated wastewater that hasn’t been contaminated by body waste, unhealthful processing, or operating waste. For example, graywater would include water from bathtubs, showers, washing machines, laundry tubs, etc. It would not include water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, toilets, or bidets.

A standard home generates approximately 160 gallons of graywater every day, or 60,000 gallons a year. Using graywater is a great way to save water while keeping your landscape irrigated.

Rebates range from $150 – $250 for a Residential Clothes Washer System, and up to $1,000 for systems which do not follow the Residential Clothes Washer System. 

A Residential Clothes Washer System doesn’t require a permit. It’s a  graywater system that uses only a single domestic clothes washing machine, and is typical installed in a single-family, duplex or townhouse type of residence. The rebates for this type of system are between $150-$250.

A graywater system that is not a Residential Clothes Washer System, that requires a permit to be installed, can get rebates totaling up to $1,000. 

Rain Barrels

Rain barrels collect rainwater from your roof. They help conserve water by using the collected water to irrigate your garden. They also help lower the amount of runoff that goes into the public storm system. The amount of water a rain barrel collects will vary depending on the roof dimensions, the size of the barrel, as well how much and when it rains. Before getting any rain barrels, you should think about how much storage capacity you require.  San Diego typically receives about 10 inches of rain every year. The rule of thumb for catching rainwater is: 1,000 square feet of roof surface captures 625 gallons of water for every 1 inch of rain that falls.

The rebate available for new rain barrels is $1.00 per gallon of rain barrel storage capacity, up to 400 gallons. For example, a 55 gallon rain barrel would receive a $55 rebate. The rebate amount can’t be more than the price of the rain barrel. Several rain barrels can be rebated, up to a maximum of $400 per property. The barrels need to be between 45 to 200 gallons in size.

A few things to keep in mind: the barrels must be above-ground rain capture devices, must be connected to a gutter downspout, and cannot require pumps or backflow devices. The barrels must either be algae and UV-resistant, or be protected by specially-constructed sun barriers. The barrels and downspouts cannot be made of copper, due to concerns about leaching. Each barrel must have a secure lid to keep away insects and debris, and to ensure child safety. After receiving the rebate, the barrel must be maintained for 3 years. 

Downspout Redirects

The City of San Diego now offers rebates of up to $40 for every downspout redirected. A downspout is a pipe that takes water from the roof to the ground or to a storm drain. Unfortunately, the downspouts of many homes lead to the storm drain system. This system goes to our oceans.

A Downspout Redirect takes the water to a landscaped area, or a trench designed to accept stormwater runoff, so that it doesn’t enter the storm drain. The landscape can then naturally filter the water, lowering its level of pollutants. When the redirected water is used for irrigation, it also helps to conserve water.

There are a few things to keep in mind. Downspout runoff should be directed to a place at least 5 feet away from the structure, and at least 5 feet away from property lines. The runoff should be directed away from storm drains, to a permeable landscape. The runoff can’t be sent to neighboring properties, and you need to make sure that the redirected water does not get near underground utilities. The redirected water must drain away from the structure at a slight slope.

It’s recommended that the areas receiving runoff should have some kind of  vegetation, such as grasses or shrubs. Native plants are best, as they’re already adapted to the San Diego climate. If you’re using pipe extensions, they shouldn’t cross over sidewalks, driveways, or other impervious surfaces. Areas prone to pooling water would not be good places for redirection.

Landscape Transformation Program

Lawns are estimated to require 44 gallons of water per year.  To conserve water, the city government is offering a rebate of $1.25 per square foot for converted lawns. The Metropolitan Water District may also be able to provide an additional rebate of up to $3 per square foot. 

Weather-Based Irrigation Controller Systems

Weather-based smart controllers adjust the irrigation watering schedule based on changes in the weather. A smart controller automatically reduces the amount of water used when the weather is cooler. Likewise, water is added as the weather heads up.

For controllers and stations that are connected to an actively-controlled irrigation system, rebates are available starting at $80 per controller and $35 per station. 

For more information on these rebate programs, check the City of San Diego website.

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