More than a few dystopian fantasies depict a future in which humanity’s water supply derives from recycled human waste. As Frank Herbert imagined it in his 1965 novel “Dune“ — now a much-anticipated fall 2021 blockbuster — the humans inhabiting a dessicated, rainless planet must wear “stillsuits”— a rubbery second skin that captures sweat, urine and feces and recycles them into drinking water.
Irrigation curbs, car washing restrictions and the shutoff of fountains may return in the city of Napa amid shrinking water supplies on the tail of a dry California winter.
Tuesday night, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a “moderate water shortage” declaration intended to cut consumption by 15%. Approval would mark the return of water-use restrictions last rolled out in the mid-2010s when a six-year drought led California to mandate across-the-board cutbacks statewide.
California farmers relying on State Water Project water were warned Monday to prepare for potential shortages by reducing water use and adopting practical conservation measures. Reservoir and groundwater levels are significantly below average, and despite recent storms, snowpack is only 58% of average as of March 10.
Billions of people don’t have clean drinking water, or anywhere sanitary to wash their hands. Half of the world’s malnutrition cases are caused by a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Flooding caused nearly $77 billion in economic losses worldwide between 2009 and 2019.
Pure Water Oceanside construction remains on schedule for completion in 2022, with several significant milestones recently completed. The Oceanside project will purify recycled water to create a new, local source of high-quality drinking water that is safe, drought-proof and environmentally sound.
“Construction has impacted many residents and businesses,” said Cari Dale, City of Oceanside water utilities director. “Please know the City of Oceanside appreciates your patience. We thank people for understanding the need for this project and bearing with us during these months of construction impacts. This work is temporary, but the benefits will last for generations.”
Pure Water Oceanside Project foundation walls in place
The foundational work on the facility located in the San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility is complete. Pipelines, electrical conduits, equipment pads/pedestals, and wet wells have been constructed. Prefabricated walls have been installed. Installing the roof and additional wall stabilizing are next on the schedule.
The water purification equipment including pumps, membrane filters, and reverse osmosis canisters are currently being manufactured. Delivery is anticipated between this summer and fall.
Coco Farms Drive and Fireside Park construction update
The two injection wells on Coco Palms Drive are complete. Sound walls will be removed. Construction on two planned monitoring wells is anticipated to begin within the next two months. Sound walls will be installed prior to extended hours construction into evenings and weekends to reduce the impact on the community.
Coco Palms Drive will continue to be closed for the next few months while pipeline construction is underway.
Work on the south side of Coco Palms Drive near the El Camino Real intersection begins this month. Parking in the area will be closed during this work period with “no parking” signs posted.
Monitoring well work in Fireside Park will take place primarily during the daytime, with possible evening and weekend work for critical activities. Sound walls will be installed to reduce noise. Drilling and development is estimated to take six weeks.
El Camino Real recycled water expansion pipeline work coming soon
Pipeline installation work will begin soon to install recycled water pipelines under El Camino Real. Traffic delays are expected and alternative routes are suggested.
Cones will be set up in work zones to redirect traffic from closed lanes and flagger workers will help drivers safely navigate intersections. Regular working hours will be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with occasional work on Saturdays.
Work at the Mission Avenue and El Camino Real intersection will be at night to reduce commuter traffic impacts. Work hours will be from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Oceanside Project benefits both residents and environment
Approximately 90% of Oceanside’s drinking water is imported. Pure Water Oceanside will create three to five million gallons of drinking water each day, enough water to provide 32% of the City of Oceanside’s water supply.
The water purification process uses reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to create safe drinking water. The technology removes pharmaceuticals, chemicals, hormones, microplastics, and personal care products.
The project protects sensitive ecosystems by reducing the amount of water siphoned by imported water sources. It decreases the amount of recycled water discharged into the ocean, and uses half the energy needed to transport imported water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Residents are kept up to date on construction impacts to streets and other infrastructure through several outreach efforts including an interactive construction map, detailed online schedule, regular newsletters, and virtual open house presentations live on the City of Oceanside’s YouTube channel, offering residents the opportunity to ask questions.
Just as owners perform routine maintenance to keep their cars running smoothly, water systems need regular maintenance to provide reliable service. The Vallecitos Water District’s Valve Maintenance Program ensures these vital components in its water distribution remain in good working condition throughout the District. Valves left without proper maintenance for long periods can become a serious problem, especially in an emergency water shutdown.
VWD’s Construction Department manages the program. Two-person teams use maps to familiarize themselves with the location of the 4,959 valves in the system, not including fire hydrants and fire services. Critical valves serve hospitals and businesses. Between 300 and 500 valves are serviced monthly, following American Water Works Association standards.
Small but vital parts monitored
Construction worker Justin Shutt explains valves are isolation and shutoff point for water mains along streets.
“If we have a main break, where a main ruptures, we need to be able to isolate those certain sections without taking too many people out of water” by shutting the valves, said Shutt.
Valve Maintenance Technician John Truppa runs the valve maintenance program. He trains crew members how to use the valve exerciser machine, read maps properly, and respond to customer calls. Customer service is a priority. When a customer reports a water line leak in their home, the valve maintenance crew helps by shutting off the water at the meter.
The Vallecitos Water District’s geographic information system provides a written record of valve location, condition, maintenance, and inspection records for each valve serviced. Reliable recordkeeping is vital to ensure all valves receive regular maintenance and are replaced before coming to the end of their service life to reduce the percentage of failures and inoperable valves. The District monitors valve life span to replace them prior to failure. Areas prone to water main breaks and valves on mains serving large groups of customers get added attention.
Valve maintenance involves performing a prescribed number of turns to “exercise” or test the valve. Turns are calculated in part by the size of the main. Larger transmission water mains require more valve turns, both up and down. Turning speed is also important. If valves are closed too quickly, it creates “water hammer,” or sudden pressure forcing water down the line, potentially triggering water main breaks. You may have heard a water hammer in your house when you shut off a household valve suddenly.
Ounce of prevention
Regular valve maintenance prevents unanticipated shutdowns of water service to Vallecitos customers.
“We want to take as few people out of water at a time as we possibly can,” said Shutt. “We keep up on the upgrades and make sure the valves are working the way they’re supposed to.”
The proactive approach by the Vallecitos Water District ensures the reliable delivery of quality water to its customers while ensuring all systems are working properly.
Beside a river that winds through a mountain valley, the charred trunks of pine trees lie toppled on the blackened ground, covered in a thin layer of fresh snow.
Weeks after flames ripped through this alpine forest, a smoky odor still lingers in the air.
The fire, called the East Troublesome, burned later into the fall than what once was normal. It cut across Rocky Mountain National Park, racing up and over the Continental Divide.
The old axiom goes, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin'” — it reflects the never-ending horse-trading that involves distribution of water in the arid Southwest and the tug of war between the region’s agricultural communities and the ever-growing urban centers, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and areas of Southern California. Traditionally, water rights have been brokered by state and local governments, as well as regional water districts.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, it’s more important than ever that all Californians have reliable access to clean, safe water. At the most basic level, our health depends on it: water is essential for the handwashing and cleaning that helps eliminate the virus. Water also is indispensable for our food supply, jobs and economy.
If you’re worried about your well going dry and who will pay to drill deeper, or about your community having enough safe and clean water, or about your farm’s ability to irrigate, this information is for you.