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California Should Expect a ‘Fourth Dry Year’ as Drought Persists

California’s reservoirs will enter fall in a slightly better position than last year, but the Golden State should prepare for more dryness, extreme weather events and water quality hazards in 2023, officials say. The latest climate forecasting update from the Department of Water Resources came Wednesday, just days before the end of the water year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 in California.

Tidal Marsh or ‘Fake Habitat’? California Environmental Project Draws Criticism

Southwest of Sacramento, the branching arms of waterways reach into a patchwork of farm fields and pastures. Canals and wetlands fringed with reeds meet a sunbaked expanse of dry meadows.

These lands on the northwestern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have now been targeted for restoration following the widespread destruction of estuary marsh habitats that began over a century ago.

North County Water Reuse Coalition-water reuse-drought proof-recycling

North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition Awarded Up to $17.8 Million in Federal Funding

The North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition was awarded a grant of up to $17.8 million for the development of recycled water infrastructure. The grant funds come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“As we face increasingly devastating drought conditions, it’s imperative that we continue to diversify our water supplies and strengthen our local water independence,” said U.S. Representative Mike Levin. “The North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition plays a critical role in that effort, which is why I am proud to see the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding investments for their important work to expand the use of recycled water.”

This is the second grant that the USBR has awarded to the North County coalition in the last year. In August 2021, USBR committed $6.1 million in funds from its Title XVI program for local water reclamation and reuse projects. The two grant awards totaling up to $23.9 million will help cover costs for work performed through September 2025.

New water recycling projects

“California is not going to be able to navigate another historic drought if we don’t develop new water supplies, said Larry Watt, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board President. “In fact, the number one priority in the California Water Supply Strategy document that Governor Newsom recently released is to create new water recycling projects. This financial support from the Bureau of Reclamation is instrumental for us to be able to develop these new supplies and achieve statewide goals.”

Water agencies work to increase local supply sources

The coalition is a group of nine water and wastewater agencies in San Diego County working beyond jurisdictional boundaries to maximize recycled water use and reduce demand for imported water. The awarded funding is for the coalition’s Regional Recycled Water Program: 2020 Project, which is a joint effort between coalition members to expand recycled water infrastructure to increase and maximize water reuse in the region. Upon completion of all long-term project elements, the coalition anticipates increasing water reuse by 11 billion gallons per year. This equates to approximately 31 million gallons per day of recycled water and potable reuse water added to northern San Diego’s water supply portfolio.

The project includes connecting discrete recycled water systems to one another, new pipelines, increasing recycled water storage capacity, installation of new pump stations, and other project components that will help distribute recycled water to effectively meet demands.

“For the Vallecitos Water District, the additional funding will be used to increase the size of the chlorine contact stage at our Meadowlark Water Reclamation Facility,” noted Craig Elitharp, Vallecitos Water District Board President. “We will be able to increase the capacity of Meadowlark from 5 million gallons a day to 6.5 million gallons a day. This additional reclaimed water supply will be passed along to our water reuse partners with the City of Carlsbad and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District.”

Project Overview-North San Dieg County Water Reuse Coalition

The project includes connecting discrete recycled water systems to one another, new pipelines, increasing recycled water storage capacity, installation of new pump stations, and other project components that will help distribute recycled water to effectively meet demands. Graphic: North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition

Drought-proof supply

The project helps address water supply shortages by offering the region a reliable approach for supplementing local and imported supplies. Potable water supplies are vulnerable during drought periods and can be restricted during times of water shortages. Recycled water is considered a drought-proof supply because it is not linked to weather fluctuations and is available year-round, effectively offsetting potable water demand. Furthermore, since recycled water is produced locally, it cannot be disrupted from shortages caused by earthquakes, wildfires, and other natural disasters that may occur in other parts of the state.

Investments in water infrastructure

“We are grateful for this partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help fund green infrastructure,” said Kellie Hinze, San Elijo Joint Powers Authority Chairwoman and Encinitas City Council Member. “Recycling water reduces our dependence on imported supplies while building resiliency for a changing climate.”

Investments in water infrastructure, such as the infrastructure expanded by this project, promotes economic development and expanded business opportunities. According to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, for every $1 invested in water infrastructure, there is an estimated $1.80 increase in the region’s gross regional product.

Additional benefits associated with the project come from reduced wastewater discharges and associated coastal stressors. Reducing the amount of wastewater discharged to the Pacific Ocean can benefit water quality along the coast in the coalition’s service area.

Recycled water infrastructure

In addition to federal funds, the project has previously received funding at the state level from the Department of Water Resources. The project received grant funding on several occasions through DWR’s Integrated Regional Water Management Program—administered locally in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority, County of San Diego, and City of San Diego—which supports collaborative water management to increase regional self-reliance throughout California. These IRWM awards have totaled $4.95 million in grant funding.

Through the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program, the USBR provides financial and technical assistance to local water agencies for the planning, design, and construction of water reclamation and reuse projects. These projects are designed to provide growing communities with new sources of water which increases water management flexibility and makes our water supply more reliable. The coalition will be working with USBR to finalize the grant agreement in the coming months.

More information about the coalition and the project is available at www.nsdwrc.org.

The North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition is comprised of nine northern San Diego County water and wastewater agencies working beyond jurisdictional boundaries to maximize recycled water use and reduce demand for imported water. The Coalition partners include Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Carlsbad Municipal Water District, City of Oceanside, Vallecitos Water District, City of Escondido, Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, Leucadia Wastewater District, and San Elijo Joint Powers Authority.

(Editor’s note: The Santa Fe Irrigation District, Vallecitos Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, Carlsbad Municipal Water District, City of Escondido, and City of Oceanside, are seven of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Olivenhain Municipal Water District-recycled water pipeline-construction

Manchester Pipeline Projects Continue with Installation of Recycled Water Pipeline

Olivenhain Municipal Water District is beginning construction this week on a new recycled water pipeline in Encinitas along Manchester Avenue and South El Camino Real from Via Poco to Tennis Club Drive. Once complete, customers connecting to this new pipeline will irrigate with recycled water, which will reduce demand for imported potable water by more than 10 million gallons every year.

Recycled water is a sustainable water source that reduces the region’s dependence on imported water. OMWD is currently meeting approximately 14% of its total water demands using locally supplied recycled water for irrigation.

Recycled water pipeline

“Recycled water is a critical tool in our effort to diversify our water supply and reduce the impacts of drought,” said OMWD Board President Larry Watt. “By converting from potable to recycled water for irrigation, this project has become yet another example of how we can significantly reduce our potable water consumption.”

This new pipeline is an element of the larger North San Diego County Regional Recycled Water Project — a collaborative effort among nine North County agencies that coordinate across jurisdictional boundaries. The water that OMWD will deliver through the new pipeline is produced at San Elijo Joint Powers Authority’s water reclamation facility in Cardiff.

Cost-effective for water ratepayers

OMWD has aggressively sought grant funding for this project to make it cost-effective for ratepayers. The efforts have been successful, with OMWD achieving $1,350,000 from California’s Department of Water Resources for two separate segments of the pipeline, and approximately $400,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program.

The project is expected to be completed in 2023 and progress updates can be found at www.olivenhain.com/projects and by following OMWD on Facebook and Twitter.

Map-Olivenhain Municipal Water District-recycled water pipeline-construction

Manchester Avenue potable water pipeline replacement project completed

Earlier this year, the Olivenhain Municipal Water District completed the Manchester Avenue Potable Water Pipeline Project. In total, 3,700 linear feet of aged potable water pipeline was replaced along Manchester Avenue, Rancho Santa Fe Road and Encinitas Boulevard.

(Editor’s note: The Olivenhain Municipal Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Drought Picture Grows More Bleak for Agriculture

As California toils through a third consecutive drought year, many Sacramento Valley farmers, well known for supporting waterfowl that stop along the Pacific Flyway, are being left high and dry.

The farmers are facing water-supply challenges that are worse this season than in previous dry years.

“This drought is hitting Northern California really hard and in some unprecedented ways,” said Ellen Hanak, director of water policy for the Public Policy Institute of California, speaking last week on drought at a meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.

Conference Highlights Deficiency of Models for Drought Situations

As the drought in California and across much of the western United States enters another summer season, several experts participated in a conference hosted by the California Department of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation on Thursday to discuss issues of how modeling precipitation can impact decisions made by policymakers.

One of the main takeaways of the conference was that the current modeling programs are not effective as they should be in helping water districts, state water agencies and federal departments in planning water distributions.

How CA’s Ancient Hidden Waterways Could Be Key to Recharging State’s Depleted Groundwater

For California’s water experts, months in the air could soon reveal secrets under the ground, including the remnants of ancient waterways hidden for thousands of years. It’s a discovery that could be key to recharging the state’s depleted groundwater.

Katherine Dlubac, Ph.D., is overseeing the high-tech survey for the California Department of Water Resources.

As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals

Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance.

It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Altogether, they submitted plans for 20 basins for review by the California Department of Water Resources in January 2020. Earlier this year, DWR rendered its verdict: Most of the basin plans were incomplete.

Earlier this year, DWR rendered its verdict: Most of the basin plans were incomplete. Now groundwater agencies responsible for 12 of the 20 basins are racing to meet a late July deadline to submit revised plans that meet SGMA’s requirements or risk the state stepping in to manage their groundwater basins.

‘More Significant Land Fallowing’ Expected This Year with Ongoing Drought

With drought conditions rivaling those experienced in 2015, there are expectations for further agricultural land fallowing this year. As of April 13, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) shows the statewide snowpack at just 23 percent of average. DWR Director Karla Nemeth noted that California’s current water situation has created some difficult circumstances for both rural and urban areas. Water allocations have been drastically curtailed with more action expected in the coming months to affect urban water users as well.

California’s Driest Start to the Year Sparks Water, Wildfire Concerns

California is entering the dry season with its water resources in a precarious position, having seen its driest start to the year on record. A heat wave last week sent temperatures soaring into the 90s and even triple-digits in some locations, as the paltry Sierra Nevada snowpack shrunk even further.

Why it matters: Water and wildfire woes lie ahead for the nation’s most populous state, as spring runoff into reservoirs slows to a trickle, and forests dry out unusually early in the year.