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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

Big Picture San Diego Blog

November 18, 2014

SeaWorld San Diego

People across the globe – and in San Diego - know SeaWorld.  But what many people don’t know is their deep commitment to the communities they serve. In addition to hosting EDC’s Annual Dinner last year, SeaWorld San Diego is involved in many programs that bolster our economy. Through various community initiatives, they have demonstrated their commitment to putting youth to work and conserving many of the region’s resources.

We sat down with John Reilly, park president at SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica Chula Vista, to learn more about the company’s broad reach.

1) Tell us about SeaWorld San Diego
Most San Diegans have heard of SeaWorld. Animals, shows, rides, Shamu —that’s all true, but most people don’t know how deeply SeaWorld affects the lives of park visitors. Jody Westberg visited the park as a youngster and dreamed of working with marine life. Today she heads SeaWorld’s animal rescue program, dedicating her life to giving ill and injured animals a second chance. Jenna Golden visited SeaWorld as a student enrolled in one of our camps. During college Jenna returned to the park as an Educator, and she now teaches youngsters about conservation and how their actions affect the world’s oceans.  Kristi Burtis grew up in San Diego and enjoyed numerous Shamu shows as a child. Today she trains the park’s killer whales and shares the special bond she has with the animals with millions of visitors.  So what does SeaWorld do?  We entertain, educate, conserve and connect people with the natural world we share.  

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?
Why Sea World Chose San Diego SeaWorld has the good fortune of being located on beautiful Mission Bay. This awe inspiring location, expansive waterfront and adjacent coastal areas allow the park’s habitats and educational programs to impact the local community. The animal rescue program has tremendous access to local beaches for rescues and adjacent waterways to return healthy animals back to the wild. And, San Diego’s perfect weather, dining, shopping, beaches and world-class zoo make it a perfect place for tourists. Visitors from around the globe chose to holiday in San Diego. Few cities in America offer tourists such a vast array of activities and locales.   

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
The Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, an innovative, independent, non-profit organization seeking real life solutions to sea life problems, recently launched two projects that are sure to impact global initiatives. On the research front, Hubbs is documenting the influence of infectious and non-infectious diseases on free-ranging animals, including zoonotic diseases (those transmissible from animals to humans). Marine mammals may play a role similar to pigs as hosts for influenza viruses and future studies are aimed at better understanding these relationships. This research has the potential to impact future medical advances and solutions. On another front, Hubbs has embarked on an ambitious fish farming program. The United States is the third-largest consumer of seafood in the world, but we only produce about nine percent of it domestically.  Hubbs is proposing a creative solution that provides an alternative source of protein and a new paradigm in the seafood business. The project, which will start by raising about 1,000 tons of California yellowtail, could serve as a model for environmentally sustainable offshore aquaculture.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego? 
John Reilly speaks at SeaWorld's 50th Anniversary Celebration in March This year SeaWorld celebrated its 50th anniversary and we could not be more excited about the park’s future. A few months ago we announced the Blue World project. Blue World includes a first-of-its-kind killer whale environment, an Independent Advisory Panel that will focus on creating something innovative that maximizes the health and wellbeing of the animals, $10 million in matching funds for killer whale research and a multi-million dollar partnership focused on ocean health. The Blue World habitat will build on SeaWorld’s legacy of providing state-of-the art homes for its animals, and will offer park guests unique and inspiring killer whale encounters for generations to come. This new environment will have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, a maximum depth of 50 feet, surface area of nearly 1.5 acres and views exceeding 40 feet in height providing guests with the world’s largest underwater viewing experience of killer whales. This tremendous new environment will enhance the educational experience for guests, foster deeper knowledge of killer whales and their ocean environment and inspire them to celebrate and conserve the natural world. Blue World will open summer, 2018 and we know San Diegans are going to be awestruck at the incredible vista and one-of-a-kind opportunity to see and learn about killer whales.


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November 14, 2014


As part of San Diego Regional EDC’s work to increase the region’s global competitiveness, a delegation of San Diegans will head to Munich, Germany next week to explore innovation strategies to strengthen advanced manufacturing. Representing a mix of academia, industry, and business organizations, the delegation will tour some of Munich’s most innovative companies, including BMW and Siemens, and meet with German leaders including the Honorable Dieter Reiter, Mayor of Munich.

Germany – where manufacturing represents nearly twice the share of employment as in the United States – offers an illustrative model for industry growth and workforce development. Its manufacturing firms rely on a robust dual model of vocational education and on-the-job training to sustain a highly-trained workforce and powerful public-private collaborations to support continuous innovation.

San Diego – much like Munich – has the talent, innovation and vision to compete and lead in the global marketplace,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC, one of the delegates on the trip. “Both San Diego and Munich have harnessed the power of public/private collaboration to fuel economic growth. Our trip to Munich will help us advance our local innovation economy.

Cafferty will be joined by Monique Rodriguez, director of government affairs, Qualcomm, Inc.; Ian Wendlandt, chief of staff, Stone Brewing Company; and Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of extension at UC San Diego.

In addition to stops at BMW and Siemens, the agenda also includes tours at small and medium-sized manufacturers. Delegates will also engage in panel discussions centered around manufacturing and innovation featuring the Hon. John Emerson, U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Bruce Katz, co-director of the Global Cities Initiative among others. Representatives from Chicago, Louisville-Lexington, Nashville, Phoenix and Portland will also be joining the trip.

The City of Munich plays an important role in San Diego’s global competitiveness. Munich is the region’s sixth largest source of foreign investment; companies with Munich-based operations employ 1,222 people in San Diego. From an industry standpoint, Munich and San Diego excel in cleantech, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, information and communication technologies and other innovative fields.

The trip is part of San Diego’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint effort between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that aims to help cities and metropolitans enhance their global competitiveness. San Diego joined GCI in 2012.

JPMorgan Chase has a longstanding commitment to helping cities thrive,” said Peter Kaldes, head of the Global Cities Initiative at JPMorgan Chase, who will be joining the trip. “We are thrilled to bring together U.S. and German city leaders who we hope will forge new economic bonds and, in the process, help their cities grow.”

In April 2014, as part of the GCI, San Diego was one of six U.S. cities selected to participate in a pilot program to develop a foreign direct investment (FDI) plan. A jobs generator, foreign-owned companies employ nearly 50,000 workers in San Diego, paying above average U.S. wages.                                                                                

In early 2015, the GCI will convene in San Diego to launch a comprehensive global trade and investment plan. 

November 11, 2014

The Clay Company

Meet the Clay Company – one of EDC’s newest investors. As the strategic extension of some of San Diego’s most dynamic companies and ventures, they have a pulse on the innovation that happens right in our backyard. Their clientele are indicative of San Diego as a whole: companies at the cross section of innovation and lifestyle.

This week, we got the opportunity to speak with the Clay Co.’s Stephanie Saathoff, president, and Maddy Kilkenny, vice president, to learn more about how they view the region.   

1) Tell us about the Clay Company.

We are lobbyists, and we’re proud of that.  Our success truly is a combination of understanding what a realistic victory is for our clients, then working with elected officials, staff, the community and stakeholders, to bridge those interests and accomplish practical results that ultimately make San Diego County a better place to live, work, and invest.

On any given day we might be touring the construction at the Cross Border Xpress in Otay Mesa, cruising around in a Car2go, or having lunch by the Koi pond at the Golden Door.  Of course, we really do our best work over burritos in Old Town - unless it’s March Madness or the World Cup.  No one works then.

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?

Why the Clay Co chose SD

San Diego is home, and if that isn’t an advantage over everyone else in the country, then we don’t know what is.  It’s where we both grew up and where we’re raising our kids.  Our hometown is more than just the weather.  We have a thriving economy – an educated, diverse, innovative talent force in a bi-national region of nearly six million people.  We have thriving major universities that produce incredible talent both on and off the court.  And, we are lucky to share a border with another country which exposes us every day to a rich cultural diversity that expands our region’s opportunities and horizons. 

San Diego has nationally recognized non-profits, award winning biotech companies, and acclaimed researchers that are creating Ebola vaccines and curing diseases.  We are home to Donut Bar, Roberto’s Taco Shops, and Stone Brewery.  “Advantage” is our middle name.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

211 San Diego is a shining example of San Diego’s leadership in combining technology, innovation, customer service, non-profit sector and disaster response.  Our local 211 is the national model, and peers around the country look to San Diego’s information and referral service to help them ramp up service, professionalism and financial stability.  When our community is looking for reliable and timely information during a critical disaster, and every day, 24/7, a live voice and solid information make a huge difference. 

4) What do you anticipate for San Diego in five years?

By 2019, San Diego will realize that we no longer need to justify being in the same conversation with great cities like Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and New York, but that it’s actually the other way around.  And we’ll stop saying that San Diego is the “biggest small town in America”.  We will also be able to boast about being home to the person that found a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Our Investor Spotlight series takes a closer look at the companies, organizations and institutions that underwrite EDC’s economic development efforts. Learn more…


November 7, 2014

Mayor Faulconer and TSRI Acting President & CEO James Paulson

With more than 80 research institutes throughout the region, San Diego is a breeding ground for innovative companies and institutes that solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.  Perhaps no local institution has captured the region’s innovative spirit more than The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

 They are on the forefront of controlling a global epidemic. Currently, TSRI Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire is advancing new Ebola therapies and has already contributed to the development of ZMapp, the Ebola therapy from San Diego-based Mapp Pharmaceuticals, given to the first two U.S. missionaries who survived infection.  Dr. Saphire has launched a crowdfunding campaign to find new therapies for the viral disease. TSRI Professor Dennis Burton and his colleagues are also taking a global leadership role in the development of a vaccine to combat HIV/AIDS, focusing on understanding rare antibodies that are effective in neutralizing the virus.

As part of his commitment to raising global awareness of the region’s innovation economy, City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has partnered with EDC to tour some of San Diego’s most cutting-edge businesses and institutes, including TSRI last Friday.  The Mayor also visited General Dynamics NASSCO and SPAWAR earlier this year.

As of Tuesday, Dr. Saphire’s crowdfunding campaign has exceeded its $100,000 goal, meaning more innovation will take place right here, in San Diego.  

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November 5, 2014


San Diego’s aerospace and defense industries play a critical role in our regional economy.  To further support these key industries, San Diego Regional EDC joined in partnership with 86 dedicated organizations to form the AMP SoCal Coalition to compete for the new federal designation known as the Investment in Manufacturing Community Partnership (IMCP). The AMP SoCal coalition, which stretches from San Diego through Ventura County, was one of only 12 regions across the United States that received this new special grant status from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The IMCP designation allows 11 federal agencies with $1.3 billion in economic development funds to use the designees’ plans to make targeted investments in demonstrably strong public-private partnerships to strengthen regional manufacturing. Essentially, this opens up AMP SoCal and the 11 other IMCP designees to vie for a piece of this $1.3 billion funding.

To ensure the AMP SoCal Coalition puts its best foot forward, San Diego Regional EDC, along with East County EDC President Jo Marie Diamond and other members of AMP SoCal Coalition, participated in a two day conference in Washington D.C. last week. This conference was designed to provide best practices insights for regions that won IMCP designations, while giving attendees direct access to the federal agencies participating in the program including the Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and Department of Transportation.

In December, San Diego will be hosting AMP SoCal’s Executive Board meeting to review the IMCP conference and continue to identify regional opportunities to leverage the IMCP status to compete for locally impactful grants.

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November 4, 2014

RA Capital Advisors

San Diego builds products and innovations that bring value to the rest of the world. However, San Diego’s story is a bit different from other regions across the country. Whereas many regions rely on a few large companies for the majority of their economic growth, San Diego’s story is one of building innovative, highly-valued companies from the ground up.

Companies like RA Capital Advisors get that. Having served the San Diego business community for more than 25 years, they have worked with clients across many of San Diego’s high-growth industries, including defense, energy, and manufacturing.

This week, we sat down with RA Capital Advisors' Joel Reed to hear more about the competitive advantages of doing business in the region.

1.  Tell us about RA Capital Advisors
RA Capital is a boutique investment bank providing financial advisory services to businesses both domestically and internationally.  We focus on mergers, acquisitions dispositions and private financings, and have completed over $60 billion in transactions since founding our business in the San Diego area over 25 years ago. 

RA Capital has handled many large and high profile transactions, including helping our clients:  use innovative technology to create substantial energy savings for commercial aircraft, combine their businesses into one of America's premier defense technology companies, finance construction of the largest fleet of ocean-going container ships, and realize many other entrepreneurial dreams. We bring that same experience to helping small and middle market business owners successfully build their companies, and realize their value when the time is right.

2.  What are some advantages to doing business in SD?
Why RA Capital Chose SDSan Diego is a vibrant center for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.  Being in San Diego allows you to see great companies grow from the ground up.  We have enjoyed working with companies as they grow new technologies or business ideas into successful companies like Sirius XM Radio, Sandel Avionics and The Titan Corporation. Many of our diverse clients have focused on specialized manufacturing, national security, aerospace, energy, and healthcare.  San Diego offers these employers the opportunity to create challenging and rewarding jobs in a city with an outstanding quality of life, that is a preferred destination for many professionals and technologies.  As companies such as Qualcomm, SAIC, and others have grown, they have generated many new businesses, reinvigorating the community.  Facing the Pacific makes San Diego a great fit with our affiliate partners' offices in India and Malaysia, and local high tech companies often find our European affiliate offices to be a source of beneficial connections.

3.  San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
Manufacturing and innovation are essential to the success of our community and our economy.  D&K Engineering, located in Rancho Bernardo, is a very exciting example.  D&K is a global product realization company specializing in the design, engineering and manufacturing of complex electromechanical products and equipment.  Through innovation, collaboration and process discipline, D&K partners with organizations to create and build innovative products while reducing cost, accelerating time to market and ensuring product quality. As D&K puts it: they bridge the gap between concept and reality. 

4.   What do we anticipate for San Diego and RA Capital in five years?
San Diego and its regional partners will emerge as a premier global city, exporting and exchanging products, technology and talent with its Asian neighbors and the rest of the world. Continuing innovations in technologies will require building upon our world class institutions of higher learning and expanding our highly skilled workforce. San Diego will build intelligent infrastructure to support this growth, while maintaining the unique beauty of our surrounding area and offering a lifestyle that attracts the active, intellectually curious individuals who create innovation. RA Capital will grow locally, while continuing to expand its global capabilities and be part of supporting this regional growth. We will help San Diego companies find the capital they need to grow, acquire the companies that complement their businesses and extend their reach around the globe. And, as we have always done, we will use our global experience and personal commitment as trusted advisors, to create value for clients, their owners, their employees and the San Diego community.

RA Capital Advisors LLC is a Member of FINRA and SIPC.

November 3, 2014

Earlier this month, EDC released its Manpower Monthly Employment Report. Since then, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released September employment data on all U.S. metros, which allows us to analyze some key indicators across geographies. Click on images to enlarge in a new window/tab.


  • At 5.9 percent, San Diego’s unemployment rate ranked 16th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • From September 2013 to September 2014, San Diego's unemployment rate fell by -1.4 percentage points, which ranked 8th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • Since the end of the recession (June 2009), San Diego's unemployment rate has fallen by 4.1 percentage points, which is greater than the U.S. average.
  • San Diego's employment grew by more than 2.5 percent from September 2013 to September 2014, which ranked 9th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros.
  • From September 2013 to September 2014, San Diego's employment in professional, scientific and technical services (PST) grew by 7.2 percent, the 2nd fastest growth among major U.S. metros.
  • Manufacturing in San Diego grew more than 2.6 percent from the previous year, which is faster than both the overall employment growth and the U.S. manufacturing average.

[Unemployment Chart]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released employment data for the September 2014 period for all U.S. metro areas. At 5.9 percent, San Diego County’s unemployment rate fell by 1.4 points from this time last year. San Diego's rate ranked 16th among major U.S. metros and was slightly above the U.S. overall rate of 5.7 percent. However, San Diego's rate fell faster than most. San Diego's percentage point change from September 2013 to September 2014 ranked 8th among major U.S. metros. While the unemployment rate in San Diego was higher than some of the region's key peer metros, it still fared better than other California metros like Los Angeles and Riverside, and fell roughly in the middle of the 25 most populous U.S. metros.

[Employment Chart]

When looking at employment growth, San Diego fared better than most. From September 2013 to September 2014, the region's employment grew by more than 2.5 percent, which ranked 9th among the 25 most populous U.S. metros. The U.S. average growth rate was less than 2 percent, and only two U.S. metros, Houston and Dallas, grew by more than 3 percent.

[PST Chart]

While San Diego's overall growth is very positive, we saw more explosive growth in one of the region's most important sectors. Professional, scientific and technical services (PST) is a sector of the economy very heavily associated with the region's innovation clusters. Much of the companies and employment in clusters like biotechnology, biomedical products, cleantech and information technology fall within the PST sector. From September 2013 to September 2014, employment in the region's PST sector grew by 7.2 percent, more than double the U.S. average of 3.2 percent. San Diego ranked second among the 25 most populous U.S. metros in this measure, which is a positive sign for the region's key traded clusters.

[MFG Chart]

Manufacturing is another key industry for growth in the region, not only because manufacturing jobs are accessible and pay well, but also because certain manufacturing subsectors are critical to the region's innovation clusters. From September 2013 to September 2014, manufacturing employment grew by 2.6 percent, which was faster than the region's overall growth rate. San Diego's manufacturing employment grew at twice the rate of the U.S., and recorded the 9th highest growth rate among major U.S. metros. 

As we discussed in the Manpower Monthly Employment Report earlier this month, San Diego's economy is experiencing strong positive employment growth. That point is even more apparent now that we can observe that growth in the context of San Diego's peers. While the unemployment rate isn't as comparatively low as we would like to have seen, Summer-to-Fall seasonal effects are often felt more strongly in San Diego, given the region's large tourism industry. We've generally seen the unemployment rate track at or below the U.S. average, and don't expect that to change much in the near future.

Thank you to Manpower-SD for their ongoing support of EDC's employment trends research.

October 28, 2014

Uber logo

Uber, the ubiquitous transportation platform, has revolutionized the way San Diegans get around. But it’s more than just a logistics platform. Although Uber is available in more than 100 cities around the world, they have found a way to leverage San Diego’s unique assets, tapping into both the concentration of military personnel and cross-border economy.  They are a high-tech company that has mastered the cross-over between innovation and quality of life – something San Diego knows well.

Christopher Ballard, general manager of Uber San Diego, explains why the company thrives in San Diego:

1) Tell us about Uber
Uber is a technology company that is changing the way the world moves, works and lives. By seamlessly connecting riders to the safest, most reliable ride on the road, we’re making all of San Diego more accessible to locals and visitors alike at prices anyone can afford.  And our growth in the city has been tremendous. When we launched in San Diego in early 2012, we partnered with a handful of drivers covering the Gaslamp. Today, we have thousands of drivers partnering with the Uber platform, with average pickup times of less than five minutes across San Diego.

2) What are some advantages to being located/doing business in San Diego?
Why Uber Chose SD We like to say Uber is a technology company at the intersection of lifestyle and logistics, and that’s definitely the case in San Diego.  San Diego’s quality of life attracts ambitious, dynamic and tech-savvy people from across the country and the world who regularly ride and drive with the Uber platform.  We’ve also tapped into the tremendous talent, commitment and dedication of our city’s vast military community as part of our national UberMILITARY initiative, which started in San Diego.  We are committing to onboarding 50,000 service members, veterans and military spouses over the next 18 months as driver-partners with the Uber platform.  

Also, San Diego has the unique distinction of being a border region.  Having recently launched Uber Tijuana, we see a major opportunity in providing riders more choice in transportation options throughout the Cali-Baja Region.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
HouseCall is revolutionizing the home services space.  Founded by ex-Qualcomm employees, the app allows people to book home services jobs directly with the service provider.  As someone who doesn’t have a lot of time left in the day for household chores like cleaning the house or fixing a sink, having the option to press a button and receive immediate service from a vetted professional is a major way to stay productive.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?
I see Uber weaving itself further into the fabric of city life in San Diego and cities across the globe.  Right now, we’re connecting riders to drivers in less than five minutes.  Once you get that right, the possibilities for on-demand delivery are endless, and the need to own a vehicle is diminished. Ultimately, we’re trying to make it so that car ownership isn’t necessary in San Diego.  It’s an ambitious goal, but one we think is achievable.  If we can make it so that it’s cheaper to take an Uber than own a car, we can boost productivity, reduce congestion, and help make San Diego an even better place to live.  We also hope to facilitate stronger economic and social ties between Tijuana and San Diego by making seamless cross-border transportation a reality.

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October 24, 2014

Across the globe, cities are forging a new kind of battle. They are competing for talent.

Metros understand that it’s talent, more than any other factor, that will drive business location decisions. If they want to grow their economy, they need to grow their talent pool first.

A new study from the City Observatory, “The Young and the Restless and the Nation’s Cities,” takes an in-depth look at the migration patterns of the young, educated millennial population (age 25-34) in cities since 2000. Young workers – especially those with bachelor’s degrees – are the most mobile subset of the American workforce. They are not just looking for any job; they are looking for a job in a city where they can envision building a life and a career.

The report reads, “We’ve witnessed an inversion of the classic recipe for economic development: it used to be that people moved to where the businesses were. Now, increasingly, it is businesses that look to expand in locations where there is an abundance of talent, especially young, well-educated workers.”

So the brings us to our next question – exactly where does San Diego stack up when it comes to its ability to attract talent? Here’s what the report tells us:

  • Between 2000 - 2010, there was a 91 percent increase in the number of 25-34 year olds that reside in close-in neighborhoods in San Diego. Close-in neighborhoods are defined as those within three miles of the center of the central business district of each metropolitan area.
  • San Diego saw disproportionately larger increases in well-educated young adults than the overall population. There was a 43 percent increase from 2002-2012 in terms of the number of 25-34 year olds that hold four-year degrees. To put it in comparison, the overall U.S. average grew by slightly more than 25 percent.
  • Cities and entrepreneurship go together. Venture capital investment appears to be increasingly flowing to startup firms located in urban settings. The urban share of venture capital in San Diego is above 80 percent.

The numbers speak for themselves: San Diego is doing well when it comes to attracting educated talent between the ages of 25-34. But we must not take this for granted. If the region wants to continue to be known for innovation, we must ensure we are attracting the right people to the region.

With the help of many partners, EDC currently has a multi-faceted global identity program underway to ensure that we continue to lead the pack in talent attraction and retention. This represents a shift in our previous marketing efforts, which were aimed at c-level decision makers.  We will be sharing more about the program in the coming weeks. For recent analysis from EDC, please see our July and October Quarterly Snapshots, which looked deeper into San Diego's comparative advantages and challenges in the talent race. 

We know that San Diego is a magnet for talent, investment and capital – our job now is making sure that message gets to the rest of the world.

Some media outlets including The New York Times have taken a closer look at the report.

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October 21, 2014

San Diego County Water Authority

Water is an essential part of the region’s economic health. From genomics to advanced manufacturing and beer, many of San Diego’s strongest industries are also those that use the most water.

Amid one of the most severe droughts in the State’s history, local governments and water agencies have put in place restrictions to conserve and increase regional water flow to preserve the health of our economy and people. The San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) launched a When in Drought campaign to educate county residents and businesses about the need to conserve our water supply.

The good news is that when it comes to these diversification efforts, San Diego is leading the pack. Thanks to the efforts of the SDCWA, the region no longer relies on one source for 95 percent of its water supply, instead looking to new sources such as recycled water as well as water storage to bolster these efforts. The recently-completed San Vicente Dam raise doubles the reservoir’s capacity. Another answer may be right in our backyard: when complete in 2015, the Carlsbad Desalination plant will be the largest of its kind in the Western hemisphere, and provide another local source of water.

This week, we got to learn a little more about the region’s water supply – and what it means for our economic competitiveness - from Mark Weston, the newly-elected chair of the board of directors at the San Diego County Water Authority. Mr. Weston serves as the Poway representative.


1) Tell us about the SDCWA.
San Diego County is a wonderful place to live, but there are not local enough water supplies to support the region’s 3.1 million people and $206 billion economy*. That’s where the Water Authority comes in. We import water from distant sources and distribute it in five very large diameter pipelines to 24 retail water districts and cities. We also are helping to develop local water resources such as seawater desalination, and we are assisting our member agencies advance potable reuse, water recycling and groundwater. And, we promote water conservation to make the most of every drop. Established in 1944, the Water Authority service area stretches from Camp Pendleton to the Otay Water District on the U.S-Mexico border. Over the past two decades, the Water Authority – in partnership with the community – has diversified the region’s water supply sources. We no longer rely on a single supplier for 95 percent of our water, a strategy that is helping reduce the impact of the current statewide drought on our community.

2)  What makes San Diego’s water supply unique?
Our region is effectively at the end of two major pipelines that bring water from the Colorado River and Northern California. After the county’s imported water supplies were cut by 31 percent in 1991, the Water Authority SDCWA on the region's water supply and the region – with support from our member agencies and the business community – developed an aggressive plan to diversify our supply sources. The strategy included the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer as part of the historic 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. In addition, the Water Authority has promoted water conservation as a way of life, helping to reduce the region’s per capita water use by more than 20 percent since 2007. The Water Authority also has been a strong supporter of water recycling. And, in fall 2015, we expect to start buying water from the landmark Carlsbad Desalination Project.

3) Water is an essential component of our future. Pick a San Diego company that is paving the way when it comes to water conservation.
San Diego Zoo Global recycles more than 16 million gallons of water annually and uses that water to support its horticultural collections. In addition, the Zoo uses water-saving technologies such as low-flow toilets, water reclamation ponds and evaporation-reducing mulch around plants. San Diego Zoo Global is also doing a great job spreading the word about the need for water conservation through: new signs at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park that emphasize WaterSmart practices; water conservation reminders during bus and tram tours; and social media posts that highlight California’s water supply challenges while encouraging its legions of supporters to conserve water.

4) What do you anticipate for the Water Authority in the next 5 years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?
By 2020, the Water Authority anticipates achieving its long-term goals for creating a fully diversified water supply, and we also expect the region will meet the state Legislature’s mandate to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020. But that doesn’t mean our job is done. The serious statewide drought and a changing climate will continue to challenge local and state water suppliers. For instance, if this winter is dry, it may mean reductions in the amount of imported water delivered to San Diego County by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California. While MWD is still our region’s largest water supplier, our diversification efforts will reduce the impacts on our community of any water allocations by MWD. About this time next year, the Carlsbad Desalination Project will generate 50 million gallons of water a day, enough to meet about 7 percent of regional demand in 2020. In addition, we will continue supporting our member agencies’ efforts to enhance groundwater supplies and water recycling. Several member agencies are developing or studying potable water reuse projects, and we have identified potable reuse as the region’s most likely next source of local supply. Finally, we will continue partnering with residents and businesses to conserve water, particularly outdoors.

*2014 estimated GDP, according to National University Systems Institute for Policy Research