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Water Reuse Projects Highlight Sustainable Building Week

Three potable water reuse or recycling projects under development in the San Diego region were highlighted this week during the San Diego Green Building Council’s inaugural “Sustainable Building Week San Diego.”

The Sustainable Building Week programs focused on sustainable practices and creating collaboration and networks among San Diego professionals involved with environmental stewardship and green building.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

OMWD to Use $2 Million Water Wholesaler Refund to Reduce Future Costs to Customers

Encinitas, Calif. — Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors unanimously voted at its April 14 meeting to utilize a $2 million refund to reduce future rate increases to OMWD ratepayers. The refund resulted from San Diego County Water Authority’s decade-long litigation with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California seeking legal rates and repayment of overcharges.

Drought: Why Water Supply Diversity is Critical

Drought is back in California. Federal and state agencies are warning of potential water shortages in the months ahead. Because of investments made by the San Diego County Water Authority, its member agencies and the region’s water ratepayers, San Diego County is safe from the threat of multi-year droughts.

Controversial Pipeline Project Is Fueling Drama Within the Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority is no stranger to conflict – virtually all of its dealings over the past decade have been shaped by its feud with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Now that feud is fueling fights within the agency itself. In the latest twist, some members called for an independent ethics officer during a full meeting of the Water Authority last month.

Drought-Water Supply Diversity-investments

Drought: Why Water Supply Diversity is Critical

Drought is back in California. Federal and state agencies are warning of potential water shortages in the months ahead. Because of investments made by the San Diego County Water Authority, its member agencies and the region’s water ratepayers, San Diego County is safe from the threat of multiyear droughts.

“We are now facing the reality that it will be a second dry year for California and that is having a significant impact on our water supply,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in early April. “The Department of Water Resources is working with our federal and state partners to plan for the impacts of limited water supplies this summer for agriculture as well as urban and rural water users. We encourage everyone to look for ways to use water efficiently in their everyday lives.”

The San Diego region relies far less on supplies from Northern California than in previous decades. A severe drought in the early 1990s forced the region to confront the fact that continuing to provide safe and reliable water demanded a diverse portfolio of supplies instead of near-total reliance on a single source.

“We have sufficient water supplies whether it’s a normal year, which means normal rainfall,” said Jeff Stephenson, water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. “A single dry year. Or a period of five straight dry years. Under those scenarios we have more than sufficient water supplies to meet the needs of the region.”

Investments and planning pay off

Stephenson credits three decades of efforts by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to diversify water sources, including contracts for water transfers with the Imperial Irrigation District and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, as well as the development of additional water storage capacity in the region.

There are also several water reuse or recycling projects in development throughout San Diego County. The region’s dependence on imported water supply will decrease as these local supply sources are developed and become operational.

Pure Water Oceanside-Potable Reuse-Sustainability Sustainble Building Week

Construction is underway for Pure Water Oceanside, one of three potable reuse or recycling projects in San Diego County that will reduce the need for imported water while creating a sustainable, local supply. Photo: City of Oceanside/Jeremy Kemp

Approximately 43,000 acre-feet of recycled water is expected to be reused within the Water Authority’s service area annually by 2025. As the new and expanded potable reuse plants come online, they are projected to produce more than 112,000 acre-feet per year of new drinking water supplies by 2045, enough to meet nearly 18% of the region’s future water demand.

“Our member agencies throughout the region have developed more local supplies, such as recycled water,” Stephenson said. “In addition, the member agencies are developing potable reuse projects, including the city of San Diego’s pure water program which comes online in the future, and all of those supplies really make the region much more able to withstand drought periods.”

Revised drought contingency plan

As a result of the persistent drought conditions, and in accordance with its permit for the long-term operation of the State Water Project, DWR has submitted a revised Drought Contingency Plan to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The plan provides updated hydrologic conditions and outlines areas of concern for the joint operations of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, water quality, and environmental impacts.

In late-March, the State Water Resources Control Board mailed approximately 40,000 notices to water right holders, warning of persisting dry conditions and asking them to plan for potential shortages. Officials said the warnings, a result of two years of below average precipitation and below average state reservoir levels, will prompt early action to help minimize short term drought impacts.

“Planting crops and other decisions that are dictated by water supply are made early in the year, so early warnings are vital,” said Erik Ekdahl, deputy director for the Water Board’s Division of Water Rights. “These letters give water users time to prepare and help minimize the impacts of reduced supplies on businesses, farms and homes.”

The agency suggested in the letter that agricultural water users can implement practical actions now to improve their drought resilience, including reducing irrigated acreage, managing herd size, using innovative irrigation and diversifying water supply portfolios. Urban water users can conserve by putting in drought-resistant landscape, reducing outdoor irrigation and replacing older house fixtures and appliances with more efficient ones.

Increasing local supply sources

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies continue to increase local supply sources and make investments to ensure a plentiful, safe, and reliable water supply for the region’s 3.3 million people and its $245 billion economy.

“Current conditions are a reminder of why the Water Authority and its member agencies have invested in locally controlled water sources and facilities such as dams and pipelines that can move water when and where it’s needed,” said the Water Authority’s Stephenson.

Desal Plant-5th anniversary-Carlsbad Desalination Plant-drinking watr

The Carlsbad plant uses reverse osmosis to produce approximately 10 percent of the region’s water supply; it is a core supply regardless of weather conditions, and it is blended with water from other sources for regional distribution. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Ever since the drought of the early 1990s, the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have been leading advocates for water-smart strategies such as low-flow toilets, low-water landscapes and other conservation tactics. One result is that per capita water use in the San Diego region is down by more than 50% over the past three decades.

Reservoirs-Drought-Water Supply Diversity-DWR

“We are now facing the reality that it will be a second dry year for California and that is having a significant impact on our water supply,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in early April 2021. Graphic: California Department of Water Resources

San Diego’s Soaring Water Rates Have Avocado, Other Growers Eyeing Break with County

Many avocado growers in San Diego have gone out of business in recent years as they struggle with the rising cost of water, says Charlie Wolk as he walks through a recently forsaken grove in Rainbow that he tended for more than a decade.

CWA Waives Late Penalty for Rainbow Payment

The electronic payment the Rainbow Municipal Water District made to the San Diego County Water Authority didn’t process by the date it was due, so Rainbow was assessed a late penalty. The fault was in the electronic processing rather than Rainbow’s lack of a payment attempt, so March 25, the SDCWA board unanimously approved a waiver of the penalty.

Water Agencies in Rural Fallbrook and Rainbow Move Forward With Plans to Leave County Authority

The water agencies in Fallbrook and Rainbow announced Thursday they will move forward with an effort to leave the San Diego County Water Authority and join the Eastern Municipal Water District in southwest Riverside County.

SD Sustainable Building Week Features Water Reuse Projects

Representatives from three potable reuse projects currently under development in San Diego County will participate in the inaugural “Sustainable Building Week San Diego” at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 13.

Hosted by the San Diego Green Building Council, Sustainable Building Week offers free virtual events from April 12 – 16 addressing sustainable practices and creating collaboration and networks among San Diego professionals involved with environmental stewardship and green building. All events are free and open to the public.

Pure Water Oceanside-Potable Reuse-Sustainability Sustainble Building Week

SD Sustainable Building Week Features Water Reuse Projects

Representatives from three potable reuse projects under development in San Diego County will provide project updates during the inaugural “Sustainable Building Week San Diego” at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 13.

Hosted by the San Diego Green Building Council, Sustainable Building Week offers free virtual events from April 12 – 16 addressing sustainable practices and creating collaboration and networks among San Diego professionals involved with environmental stewardship and green building. All events are free and open to the public.

Sustainable Building Week and potable reuse

The San Diego County Water Authority hosts and moderates a panel titled “Potable Reuse: New Local Sources  of High-Quality Drinking Water for  San Diego County.” Potable reuse will provide a new source of safe, high-quality drinking water in San Diego County. Projects will create a local supply that is sustainable, drought-resilient, and benefits the environment. Additional sources of local water supply will also help prepare the region for future droughts and a changing climate.

Financially competitive and environmentally responsible

Helix Water District's R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant

Purified water from the East County Advanced Water Purification Project will undergo additional processing at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant after being be piped into the district’s Lake Jennings reservoir. Photo: Helix Water District

Attendees to the free virtual presentation will hear the latest updates on three San Diego County potable reuse projects currently under development. The presenters will describe how the potable reuse process purifies recycled water; reduces reliance on imported water; and is financially competitive and environmentally responsible.

Panelists include:

Cari Dale, Water Utilities Director, City of Oceanside, has been working towards meeting the Oceanside City Council’s goal of 50% local water supply development by the year 2030, a goal which will be achieved in part by the implementation of Pure Water Oceanside.

John Stufflebean, Assistant Director, Water Utilities Department, City of San Diego, currently the Assistant Director for the Pure Water and Technical Services Branch. Pure Water San Diego is the $5 billion project designed to generate nearly one-half of San Diego’s water demand from purified wastewater.

Kyle Swanson, Director of Advanced Water Purification, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, provides leadership and guidance in the design and implementation of the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.  He has over 20 years of experience in water-related industries and is a licensed distribution and treatment operator and certified public manager.

Moderating the program is Lesley Dobalian, Principal Water Resources Specialist for the San Diego County Water Authority.

Registration to attend the program is free. Attendees can RSVP and receive a link for the presentation on the SDGBC Sustainable Building Week website.