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Pure Water Oceanside-US EPA loan-Water Recycling

Pure Water Oceanside Recycling Project Gets $69 Million EPA Loan

The Pure Water Oceanside project is getting a $69 million loan from the U.S. EPA that will finance nearly half of the project’s construction cost.

EPA officials announced the loan at an event today in Oceanside attended by federal, regional and local officials.

The innovative water reuse project will purify recycled water to create a new source of high-quality drinking water that is clean, safe, drought-proof and sustainable. It also will benefit the environment by reducing discharges into the Pacific Ocean. Construction and operation of the plant is expected to create 622 jobs.

Scheduled to be completed in 2022, Pure Water Oceanside will be the first operating advanced water purification facility in San Diego County. The project will provide more than 32% of the City of Oceanside’s water supply, or 3 to 5 million gallons per day.

Sustainability, drought-proof water supply

“The City of Oceanside is proud to be a leader in sustainability and water reliability,” said Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss. “Pure Water Oceanside marks the next big step for our City as the project will safeguard against drought, reduce our dependence on imported water, and create an exceptionally pure drinking water supply.”

“I appreciate the U.S. EPA in their funding support as it is a critical aspect for Oceanside’s ability to continue to improve our local water supplies while minimizing our impact to our ratepayers,” said Weiss.

Loan supports infrastructure investments

“At the City of Oceanside, we are focused not only on today, but also are committed to planning for tomorrow to ensure future generations will have access to high-quality drinking water,” said Oceanside Water Utilities Director Cari Dale. “This loan will be instrumental in moving our Pure Water Oceanside project forward to completion and aligns with our long-term goal to have 50% of our city’s water supply be locally sourced by 2030.”

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to help finance the Pure Water Oceanside Project comes at a critical time, as the federal government, EPA, and water industry work to offset the public health and financial impacts of COVID-19.

The Pure Water Oceanside project is estimated to cost $158 million, and the WIFIA loan will finance nearly half of that cost, according to the EPA. The remaining project funds will come from a combination of grants, water system revenue backed obligations, and system funds.

“EPA’s support for this project illustrates two agency priorities as we work to meet 21st century water demands — reusing the water that we have and revamping our nation’s water infrastructure,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “With WIFIA’s support, Pure Water Oceanside will be a landmark project as EPA looks to foster additional innovative water reuse strategies and infrastructure investments across the country.”

Pure Water Oceanside-EPA Loan-Water Recycling

“I am proud and excited for the City of Oceanside and everyone who has worked so hard on the Pure Water Oceanside project,” said Congressman Mike Levin, who represents north San Diego County. “Now more than ever, it’s critically important that we diversify our water supply. Thanks to Pure Water Oceanside, the City of Oceanside, and this EPA loan, we are one step closer to achieving that independence. This is an extraordinary milestone and will make a huge difference for countless families in North County.”

National Water Reuse Action Plan

The water reuse benefits of the project highlight commitments made under the National Water Reuse Action Plan—a collaborative effort and the first initiative of its magnitude aimed at strengthening the sustainability, security and resilience of our nation’s water resources. The Action Plan frames the business case that water reuse is a viable and growing means of supporting our economy and improving the availability of freshwater for farmers, industry, communities, and ecosystems.

“By improving water infrastructure, we are improving the quality of life and public health in our communities,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Through the WIFIA loan program, EPA is happy to support the Pure Water Oceanside Project in ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water for decades to come.”

Opinion: Metropolitan Water District Can Do Better for Southern California Amid COVID

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of uncertainty and anxiety, but also a time of compromise and collaboration. We have all been asked to make sacrifices both big and small for the greater good — face masks, changing business operations, remote work, outdoor dining and countless other accommodations.

Public agencies — especially those that deliver an essential commodity like water — should operate in the same collaborative spirit to protect ratepayers and offer relief during the continuing economic fallout.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have taken action to protect ratepayers by implementing strong cost-cutting strategies to limit rate increases without sacrificing a safe and reliable water supply or the ability to plan for the future.

FPUD Staff Receives Bebee’s Performance Bonus

Jack Bebee, general manager of Fallbrook Public Utility District, earned his performance bonus but will not receive that money.

A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Aug. 24, gave the $5,000 that Bebee would have received to the rest of FPUD’s staff. Each staff member will receive a $75 stipend.

“Instead of paying me a performance bonus this year, we divided the money that was set aside,” Bebee said. “My recommendation to the board was to do that. They’re incurring more challenges during this period that I am.”

When all staff positions are filled, FPUD has 67 employees including Bebee. Three positions are currently vacant, so 63 FPUD employees will receive a stipend.

Adapting to the ‘New Normal’ In a Post-COVID Water Sector

Beyond all the health-related impacts of the coronavirus pandemic — masks, social distancing, work from home scheduling, etc. — there have been some ripple effects to the daily operations and related employment conditions for water-treatment personnel. This synopsis of experiences provides perspective and outlines some opportunities and approaches for water-industry professionals to adopt if they have not already done so as part of the post-COVID ‘new normal’.

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Help Us Reduce Water Rates

As my two-year term as the Water Authority Board chair winds down, it’s my pleasure to update you on two important efforts that are underway for the betterment of the San Diego region.

First of all, our Board voted unanimously last week to spend a few more months discussing and assessing a study of a new regional water conveyance system to deliver our high-priority Colorado River supplies from the Imperial Valley. The work we’ve done over the past year shows the project would produce billions of dollars in potential savings over several decades – and we plan to use the next few months to outreach to stakeholder communities about this study, address questions raised in recent weeks and seek Board direction in November.

Ultimately, the questions are bigger than a new aqueduct – they are about how we sustain our economy and quality of life at a reasonable cost. A new multi-benefits conveyance system is one potential solution – but if not that, then we must grapple with equal intensity over whether it makes sense to pay ever-increasing costs (over which we have no control) to the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to deliver our water for generations, or whether a plan based mainly on local water generation is financially feasible.

The other big issue this month is related – my request that MWD adopt rate relief measures this fall that reduce our water costs. Put simply, despite the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic MWD has not enacted the same kind of rate relief as the Water Authority, which froze hiring, deferred non-essential projects and significantly reduced travel – among other steps. In the end, we limited rate increases to 4.8-4.9 % for 2021 – and more than 60% of that is directly attributable to MWD.

Now, we’re asking MWD to take a similar approach, recognizing that we’re all in this together. We aren’t prescribing the strategies for MWD. We’re just asking that the nation’s largest water agency help its customers, and we’re pledging that any rate relief MWD provides will be passed directly to our member agencies. You can view the letter I sent to MWD at www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd.

I invite you to help move this conversation forward by encouraging MWD to find meaningful cost savings this fall that are reflected in its budget. Please take a moment to do so at www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd by submitting a letter of support for rate relief.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.
San Diego County Water Authority-Rate Relief-MWD-COVID-19

San Diego County Water Authority Seeks Rate Relief at MWD

With the recession and the COVID-19 pandemic causing economic havoc nationally and across Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority has adopted several cost-cutting strategies to reduce rate increases and it’s asking the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to do the same.

When the Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved its 2021 rates in June, it limited rate increases to 4.8-4.9% – and more than 60% of that rate increase is directly attributable to MWD. The Water Authority Board also directed staff to return this fall with any other cost savings, specifically, any pass-through savings from MWD.

Water rates and COVID-19

So far, MWD’s Board has directed agency staff to look for cost-cutting measures – but MWD staff is proposing not to offer further rate relief.  Even though MWD is proposing to initiate cost-containment efforts to save $11.7 million in FY2021 (less than 0.6% of its budget), MWD’s September rate review memo recommends not to incorporate the savings into its budget and not to offer rate relief because it found member agencies “have not experienced significant [financial] impacts attributable to COVID-19.”

Water agencies face financial pressure

In reality, San Diego County and the nation continue to face a recession and double-digit unemployment, and many water agencies across Southern California are facing financial pressure due to unpaid bills by residents and their own efforts to provide rate relief.

In response to those unprecedented pressures, the Water Authority froze hiring, limited travel and training, and delayed equipment replacement, among other efforts.

“The Water Authority Board believes that it is important for all water suppliers, including MWD, to be recognized as part of the solution for Southern California ratepayers during this difficult time,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “MWD has an opportunity to help millions of ratepayers by tightening its belt like the Water Authority and numerous other water agencies have already done.”

Nation’s largest water agency has opportunity to help ratepayers across Southern California

Madaffer wrote a letter to MWD’s Board chair this week encouraging the nation’s largest water agency to take additional cost-saving steps. One way MWD could benefit all member agencies would be to reduce its water transportation rates by $15 per acre-foot. This would trim MWD’s budget by about 1.3% and provide $24 million in savings to Southern California water agencies.

However, Madaffer said the Water Authority is open to other ways that MWD can cut costs and reduce rate increases.

“We want to be clear that it also is not our intention to impede in any way MWD’s ability to provide a safe and reliable water supply to its member agencies – to the contrary, we believe these cost savings may be achieved without having any material impact on service,” Madaffer said.

To read Madaffer’s letter and submit a letter of support for rate relief to MWD, go to www.sdcwa.org/support-rate-relief-mwd.

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority

This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority Public Affairs Representative, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Litsa Tzotzolis-Water Utility Hero of the Week-Essential workers

Water Utility Hero of the Week, Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority

Editor’s Note: This feature highlights water utility employees in the San Diego region working during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure a safe, reliable and plentiful water supply. The water industry is among the sectors that are classified as essential. Litsa Tzotzolis, San Diego County Water Authority Public Affairs Representative, is the Water Utility Hero of the Week.

Water Utility Hero of the Week: Litsa Tzotzolis

Job/Agency: San Diego County Water Authority Public Affairs Representative

How did you become interested in working in the water industry?

I always wanted to work for a  governmental organization. When moving back to the U.S. in 2010, I discovered a website that promoted government jobs. I saw that the Water Authority was hiring and they were looking for someone that had my skills and I applied. Working for a governmental organization impacts the lives of others and I wanted to impact the lives of others. At the Water Authority, we provide water to people, so it is public service work.  I worked at San Diego State University for nearly four years before coming to the Water Authority. Like working for water, at the university I was able to impact the lives of students in a positive way.

How has your job changed during the pandemic?

Not much, 100% of my job is done on the computer. The only thing that has changed is the way I interact with colleagues. We have moved to interacting virtually. I connect with colleagues through Microsoft Teams which I am able to train and advise them on graphic matters.

How are you keeping safe?

I’m usually always home and only go out to walk, play tennis or grocery shop. I try to exercise daily, eat home cooked meals, eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can.

What are you most looking forward to after the crisis ends?

To go visit family in Chicago, Italy and Greece.

The Water Utility Hero of the Week highlights essential work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic by the San Diego County Water Authority and employees of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.

San Diego County Water Authority Member Agency Map

Imperial County Agencies Deliver 500,000 Face Masks to Agriculture Workers

The Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has taken the lead in distributing more than 500,000 face masks to all sectors of the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley.

“This was a positive result of the state understanding our need,” said Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. “They heard us.”

Agriculture is one of the essential sectors critical to health and safety in California during the coronavirus pandemic.

Agriculture-Imperial Valley-Face Masks-coronavirus

Imperial County Agencies Deliver 500,000 Face Masks to Agriculture Workers

The Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has taken the lead in distributing more than 500,000 face masks to all sectors of the agriculture industry in the Imperial Valley.

“This was a positive result of the state understanding our need,” said Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. “They heard us.”

Agriculture is one of the essential sectors critical to health and safety in California during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since May, 566,000 face masks have been distributed to 126 agricultural-based businesses, including growers, farm labor companies, pest control, feed lots, trucking companies, hay presses and the dairy industry. Face masks have also been provided to agencies that work with farm workers, including Campesinos Unidos and Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo.

State, local agencies collaborate for worker safety

The distribution of face masks to the agricultural community was part of a joint statewide effort of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association together with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California Office of Emergency Services provided 824,000 face masks.

Ortiz said there is a rewarding feeling that comes from working with a team to respond to a local need.

“The fact we have received these masks from the state points to how critical agriculture is as an essential service to keep food on the table, especially during these challenging times,” said Ortiz. “Everyone in agriculture deserves praise for the work they are continuing to do.”

A survey was first sent to the Imperial Valley agricultural community, and there was an overwhelming response that personal protective equipment, starting with face masks, were a critical need.

“The reaction to the survey let the state know there was an immediate need,” said Ortiz.

The county will also be receiving special N-95 respirator masks, that will be distributed to agriculture workers that handle applied pesticides which require special respirator equipment, according to Ortiz.

Face masks ‘vital’

J Rollins, Vice President and Operations Manager of Rolling R Enterprises, a local family-owned custom harvesting and hauling company, said his company received face masks for his employees at a time that masks were very difficult to find through normal retail or wholesale avenues.

“Aside from our sanitation protocols, the masks we received from the Ag Commissioner’s Office was vital in keeping our workforce healthy, especially at the peak of our operations,” said Rollins.

Imperial Valley-Agriculture-COVID-19-face masks

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Imperial Valley vegetable farmers took additional precautions during the Spring 2020 harvest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Timely delivery of face masks

Along with mask distributions, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has provided masks to individual farm workers and crews while doing field inspections.

“You are trying to focus on what else you can do to get the face masks to those who need them,” Ortiz said.

Imperial County Farm Bureau Executive Director Brea Mohamed said she was grateful for the mask distribution, adding the masks are helping growers ensure the safety of their employees and crews.

When the pandemic hit Imperial County, growers faced heavy costs to purchase such personal protective equipment, which placed further strain on their operations at a difficult time. It was also a challenge to find enough face masks to serve the local need of agricultural, she said.

Despite the coronavirus, agricultural work had to continue, said Mohamed.

“This hit right at the end of the produce harvest and just as we were starting to harvest corn, then came onions and melons,” she said. “Plus the feedlots and forage crops are year-round.”

Going forward, Mohamed said she is hopeful there might be additional help with other personal protective equipment, like hand sanitizers and sanitizers for farm equipment.