As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, public agencies have found creative solutions to holding meetings in compliance with the State of California’s meeting laws. Recently, Fallbrook Public Utility District board members stepped away from their video screens, using the opportunity to take a field trip to view a new project while conducting a traveling board meeting.
The Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project is a joint project with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and will eventually supply about 30% of the District’s water, and virtually all of Camp Pendleton’s water.
Fallbrook PUD board members view construction project
At the time of the tour, the project had been under construction for 250 days. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, board members and others who attended the traveling meeting stayed in their cars. While behind the wheel, board members wove through parts of Fallbrook to follow the path of the new pipeline. With their smartphones turned on and hands-free, representatives followed each other in a single file parade while listening to a live conference call with the project contractor. Board members learned about construction progress, and saw where and how the pipe will be installed.
The tour and the project began at the treatment plant on Alturas Road, where bulldozers and heavy machinery are moving earth to build the pipeline and a water treatment plant. The pipeline will transport water from the plant through parts of central Fallbrook, ending at McDonald Road. The project also includes a new four million-gallon storage tank, where the tour ended. Participants discussed the possibility of a subsequent tour to view ongoing progress with construction of the facilities.
The entire construction process will take approximately two years to complete, with the pipeline becoming fully operational by 2022.
The contraption, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg, would produce two of Southern California’s most precious and essential resources: water and electricity.
The electricity would be renewable. And the drought-proof, desalinated ocean water could prove more environmentally friendly — and cheaper — than the water produced from three other desalters proposed for Southern California.
The idea, developed by Silicon Valley-based Neal Aronson and his Oceanus Power & Water venture, caught the attention of the Santa Margarita Water District. The agency quickly saw the project’s viability to fill a void.
The military sector accounts for more than 20% of the San Diego region’s economy, and that would not be possible without a safe, reliable water supply.
The San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies, including Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, provide the water needed for military operations, military families and military contractors.
A new report shows that an estimated total of $28.1 billion in direct spending related to defense flowed into San Diego County during fiscal year 2019, accounting for one-in-five jobs in the region.
Reliable water supplies support military economy
The 2019 San Diego Military Economic Impact Study was released Thursday by the San Diego Military Advisory Council, or SDMAC. The military sector was responsible for about 354,000 of the region’s total jobs in fiscal year 2019, accounting for all the ripple effects of defense-connected spending, according to the report.
More than $28 billion in direct defense spending flowed into #SanDiego County during fiscal year 2019.
— San Diego County Water Authority (@sdcwa) October 10, 2019
Brought to you by water
“Water is a part of everything the military does in San Diego,” said Mark Balmert, SDMAC executive director. “Everything to water for the troops, to washing aircraft and ships after operations – every aspect of what the military does. The military and water agencies have a history together, with the U.S. Navy partly responsible for bringing water to our region.”
Balmert is referring to the time when San Diego became a hub of naval activity after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War I in 1941. The Water Authority formed 75 years ago, when it became clear that imported water supplies were necessary to sustain a booming region at the forefront of the war effort.
Ever since, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have played a vital – though often unseen – role in supporting the largest concentration of active and retired military personnel in the world, serving several military bases and sustaining the San Diego region’s defense industry in a region with few natural resources.
Safe, reliable water ‘major resource’
“The outlook for the military economy in the region for the coming year is positive,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist with Point Loma Nazerene University’s Fermanian Business & Economic Institute.
Reaser, who provided oversight and analysis of the SDMAC report, said water is essential for military dollars to continue flowing into the region.
“Water continues to be a major resource that’s required for operations of our defense contractors, for the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Department of Veterans Affairs, everything from support of the bases to water needs of medical facilities,” Reaser said.
The Water Authority is a leader in water conservation, asset management, seawater desalination and water resource planning, delivering more than 400 million gallons a day to serve the region’s 3.3 million residents and sustain its $231 billion economy.
A 2018 study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. concluded that $482 million a day in regional sales were supported by reliable access to water.
The San Diego County Water Authority presented its 2019 Water Innovation & Efficiency Award to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for significantly reducing its overall potable water use through a successful water conservation program and new infrastructure for distributing reclaimed water.
MCAS Miramar embarked on a water conservation program about a decade ago, and through a $6 million investment, MCAS Miramar decreased its potable water use by more than 40 percent since 2007. In 2015, the commanding officer formed a water conservation board tasked with reducing the base’s overall potable water use.
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors voted in July to authorize a Local Resources Program Agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Fallbrook Public Utility District for the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project.
The Local Resources Program, managed by MWD, provides funding for local water supply projects. MWD is expected to provide final approval of the project in coming months.
Earlier this year, an agreement between FPUD and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton settled a lawsuit that was filed in 1951 over the right to use water from the Santa Margarita River.
Water from Santa Margarita River would reduce imported water demand
The upcoming groundwater recharge project will improve existing facilities and build new facilities to capture surface runoff from the Santa Margarita River. When water flows are high, the runoff would recharge groundwater basins on Camp Pendleton. New and existing wells and pumps will transfer the groundwater to FPUD, which will treat and deliver it to customers.
Water from the river would reduce FPUD’s demand on imported water and minimize Camp Pendleton’s reliance on imported water.
Project would provide 30% of Fallbrook’s total water supply
Facilities will be constructed by Camp Pendleton and FPUD. Camp Pendleton has already constructed its own bi-directional pipeline and related infrastructure, as part of the project, which received congressional funding.
FPUD will construct groundwater extraction wells, a groundwater treatment plant, pump station, storage tank and conveyance and distribution pipelines among other things. The cost of the project is $54.4 million.
FPUD expects construction of the pipeline and treatment plant will begin this fall and take about two years. When completed, the project is expected to produce an estimated 3,100 acre-feet a year. One-acre foot, the equivalent of 326,000 gallons, can supply the average household needs of 2.5 four-person families for one year.
The project would provide about 30 percent of FPUD’s total water supply and nearly all of Camp Pendleton’s water needs.