More about water use


By Ann Boon, President,

Rancho Santa Fe Association Board

Last week I referred to a report published recently by the California State Water Resources Control Board that placed Rancho Santa Fe at the top of the list of water consumers on a per capita basis. That report certainly got me thinking about why we consume so much water and what we have been doing to conserve water.

The numbers also got the attention of a reporter from the LA Times who traveled to Rancho Santa Fe this week to see for herself how we use water and “why we use so much.”

On Monday, Acting RSF Association Manager Ivan Holler, board member Jerry Yahr and I met with the reporter. She was very interested in the history of Rancho Santa Fe and how it came to be developed in the 1920s. Lake Hodges Dam was constructed in order to make the development of the community feasible. Access to local water has been a big benefit to area residents since then. Rancho Santa Fe was initially developed with large, ranch-style properties. Many of these very large properties still exist, along with properties from two to 10 acres and more. Even with efforts toward conservative watering, such low population density has always put our per capita water consumption high on any statewide list.

Nevertheless, we explained to the reporter that our landscape design guidelines have been environmentally conscious for decades. During the building application process, the CDRC emphasizes to new property owners the objectives of: installing drought-tolerant plant materials, maintaining the natural environment and limiting highly landscaped areas. However, once a project has been approved, the Association can only encourage water conservation and drought-tolerant planting; we cannot force it. Fortunately, we further elaborated to the reporter that many of our residents have taken steps on their own to remove areas of lawn and to replace thirsty plants and trees with ones that need a lot less water. Many residents have also been installing “smart” controls for their irrigation systems as well as water-conserving sprinkler heads. All these efforts contribute to reduction in water use.

The reporter could tell we were gathering steam as we listed all the examples of community efforts to reduce water use. Over the past six or seven years, the Association has been a conscientious leader in replanting Covenant-owned areas with drought-tolerant trees and shrubs. Such projects were begun a few years ago, inspired by board members who wanted to model good conservation habits to the community. The most noticeable project affecting water use in the community is the one underway at the RSF Golf Course right now, where about 18 acres are being removed and replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping. This is a wonderful example of long-term fiscal prudence as well as conservation leadership on the part of the Golf Club members and staff.

Currently, your Association board is working with the Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) board and manager to find long-term solutions to the problem of scarce water in our area. We hope they will eventually find a way to install “purple” pipe that will bring reclaimed water to Rancho Santa Fe.

Changing habits and attitudes takes time but we believe that the residents in Rancho Santa Fe are committed to improving water conservation through smarter landscaping. Choosing the right kinds of irrigation equipment is also very important. Research your options, talk to professionals and consult with the SFID. Remember, SFID has declared a Level 2 Water Shortage Response Condition. We are all under mandatory water use restrictions. If you are not sure exactly what the measures require, contact SFID at (858) 227-5801, Option 1.

We can all learn better ways to save water while preserving the natural beauty of Rancho Santa Fe. We can do more, so keep up the good work. Call it our community project. Share your ideas at