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Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Controlling the Budget and Water Rates in a Challenging Era

As we head into summer, we look forward to the continued retreat of COVID-19 and a full return to baseball games, barbeques, and graduation celebrations.

We also take a moment to remember that those things we cherish about San Diego County are all based on a reliable supply of water. It is the foundation of everything we do in our semi-arid climate. That’s why I’m so pleased to report that we have reliable supplies through at least 2045, even during multiple dry years like this one. That assurance was part of the 2020 Urban Water Management Plan that the Water Authority Board of Directors recently approved.

Water supply reliability

The Board is also considering the proposed 2022 water rates, along with the budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 – a challenging task to say the least. The proposed two-year budget is $1.7 billion, a 0% change from the current two-year budget due to our continuing commitment to cost control. As usual, more than 90% of the recommended budget is for buying and treating water or building and financing infrastructure. This reflects our long-term strategy to invest in supply reliability to meet current and future needs of the San Diego region – a strategy that is paying significant dividends during the current drought hitting most of California.

Water Authority staff also proposed increasing rates and charges for member agencies by 3.6% for treated water and 3.3% for untreated water in calendar year 2022, attributable to more rate increases by the Metropolitan Water District, continued payments for past investments in supply reliability, and inflationary pressures on energy, chemicals, and construction materials.

Rigorous review of budget and water rates

Each budget and rates package undergoes a rigorous review process, as we steward ratepayer funds to ensure continued water supply reliability in support of our $253 billion economy and quality of life. This year’s budget process started in fall 2020 with internal analyses, and it continued with meetings with our retail member agencies over the past several months. The process continued this week with the Board holding a third budget workshop. We expect to vote on the budget and rates package, following any revisions, on June 24.

A final note: I thought you might be interested in this letter that I recently sent to Gov. Newsom to share my appreciation for his leadership navigating the complexities of the current drought and outlining some of our key policy principles. It’s gratifying that the governor has avoided the kind of one-size-fits-all regulations we faced in the last drought – and I encouraged him to stay the course with regards to letting local leaders determine the appropriate response for their areas.

Urban Water Management Plan-2020-San Diego County Water Authority-San Vicente Dam

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors May 27 approved the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan highlighting a “water portfolio approach” that ensures reliable water supplies for the region through the 2045 planning horizon – even during multiple dry years. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

How San Diego County Reservoirs Levels Look Amid California Drought

Reservoirs throughout the west are showing signs of the drought that really turned severe over the winter. There may be records set by the end of this summer as some reservoirs are down near half capacity already.

But is it all bad news? News 8’s Steve Fiorina went in search of answers regarding the status of our San Diego County lakes and reservoirs.

Colorado River at ‘Critical’ Levels, Water Deliveries to Mexico in Doubt

Water levels in the Colorado River are a lot lower than normal reducing the water coming into Lake Powell and Lake Mead, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The level of water in the lake determines how much water will be delivered in the region.

“The reclamation who oversees the operation for the river is forecasting a shortage on the river for next year,” said Kelly Rodgers with the San Diego County Water Authority. “They are predicting a shortage in 2022.”

Rodgers said states such as Arizona and Nevada will see the difference, but not as much in California because agencies such as SDCWA have taken steps to diversify their water supply and have built storage reservoirs and other facilities.

 

EPA Funding Secured for East County Drinking Water Project

In a major milestone for water reliability, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program was awarded a $388 million federal loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help advance the project’s completion.

“The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is the result of many years of strategic, long-term planning and this WIFIA loan marks a historic milestone in its development,” said Allen Carlisle, CEO and general manager of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “By providing East County with local control and independence of both its wastewater and water, the program secures a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life. We are grateful to the U.S. EPA for partnering with us on this important program and investing in future generations.”

EPA Funding-East County AWP-Padre Dam MWD

EPA Funding Secured for East County Drinking Water Project

In a major milestone for water reliability, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program was awarded a $388 million federal loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help advance the project’s completion.

Radhika Fox, U.S. EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, joined Kyle Swanson, Director of the East County AWP, and Steve Goble, Joint Powers Authority Chair of the East County AWP, for the June 4 announcement at the demonstration facility for the project in Santee. Following the presentation, Fox joined local officials for a tour of the demonstration facility.

“EPA is proud to partner on this project, which uses proven technology to bolster drinking water supplies in this climate-stressed region,” said Fox. “Investing in water infrastructure is one of the best bets we can make to improve public health and the environment, create jobs and address pressing challenges that face our communities.”

Radhika Fox (left), EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, and Kyle Swanson, East County AWP Director. Photo: East County AWP EPA Funding

Radhika Fox (right), EPA Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, and Kyle Swanson, East County AWP Director. Photo: East County AWP

The East County AWP is one of only 38 projects selected nationwide to receive a share of approximately $6 billion in federal water infrastructure investments. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan is the second-largest loan awarded to any San Diego County project.

“The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is the result of many years of strategic, long-term planning and this WIFIA loan marks a historic milestone in its development,” said Allen Carlisle, CEO and general manager of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “By providing East County with local control and independence of both its wastewater and water, the program secures a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life. We are grateful to the U.S. EPA for partnering with us on this important program and investing in future generations.”

New, local, sustainable water supply 

Radhika Fox of the EPA tours the East County Advanced Water Project Demonstration Facility in Santee. Photo: East County AWP EPA Funding

Radhika Fox of the EPA tours the East County Advanced Water Project Demonstration Facility in Santee. Photo: East County AWP

The East County AWP is a collaborative partnership between the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, County of San Diego, and City of El Cajon. It will create a new, local, and sustainable drinking water supply using sophisticated technology to provide 30% of current drinking water demands for East County residents when it is completed in 2025, as much as 11.5 million gallons per day.

The project will recycle East San Diego County’s wastewater locally and purify the recycled water at a new treatment facility using four advanced water purification steps. The purified water will then be pumped into Lake Jennings, treated again at the Helix Levy Treatment Plant, and then distributed into the drinking water supply.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District currently imports 100% of its drinking water supply. The agency treats two million gallons per day at its water recycling facility for irrigation and non-potable uses. Helix Water District imports approximately 85% of its drinking water supply with the remaining coming from local sources.

In addition to providing a new local water supply, the project will eliminate the need to send most of East County’s wastewater to the City of San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it is currently treated and then discharged into the ocean. Keeping this water resource in east county provides water sustainability and it’s good for the environment.

(Editor’s note: The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, and the City of El Cajon are three of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Water Authority Board Approves 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

May 27, 2021 – The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors today approved the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan for timely submission to the state. The plan highlights how regional investments in a “water portfolio approach” to supply management and a sustained emphasis on water-use efficiency mean that San Diego County will continue to have reliable water supplies through the 2045 planning horizon – even during multiple dry years.

Urban Water Management Plan-2020-San Diego County Water Authority-San Vicente Dam

Water Authority Board Approves 2020 Urban Water Management Plan

The San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors May 27 approved the Water Authority’s 2020 Urban Water Management Plan for timely submission to the state. The plan highlights how regional investments in a “water portfolio approach” to supply management and a sustained emphasis on water-use efficiency mean that San Diego County will continue to have reliable water supplies through the 2045 planning horizon – even during multiple dry years.

The Board approved the final plan following a public hearing on March 25 and a 60-day public comment period which ended May 6. The final 2020 UWMP will be submitted to the California Department of Water Resources by the July 1, 2021, deadline.

“Successful efforts to create a reliable water supply coupled with the development of new local sources by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies ensure that the region will weather dry times over the next two decades,” said Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher. “We continue to collaborate with our member agencies on investments in infrastructure and local supply sources to benefit the region’s ratepayers now and in future years.”

Collaboration with member agencies

The Water Authority started the current UWMP process in September 2018, coordinating closely with its 24 member agencies, most of which must submit their own plans to the state. Member agencies provided input into the final plan as part of the Water Authority’s ongoing effort to align local and regional projections as closely as possible while still following applicable guidelines and using regional models. The plan’s long-range demand forecast shows an increase in regional demands of less than 1% per year through 2045. This change in demand is consistent with the change forecasted by other large water suppliers in the state, including the City of San Diego and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Multiple supply and demand projections factor into Urban Water Management Plans, which are mandated by the state to ensure sufficient supplies over 25 years. The plans are not used to set water rates; rates are set annually based on multiple financial factors at the time, not long-term projections about water supplies.

Water supply availability

Urban Water Management Plans are dictated by statutory guidelines, Water Authority Board direction and an agreement with the San Diego Association of Governments to use its regional growth forecast. The plans also support state laws that link approval for large housing developments to water supply availability.

By law, the plans must be updated every five years. Per state guidelines, the Water Authority’s Urban Water Management Plan includes:

  • Projected water demands under normal weather and dry weather scenarios
  • Conservation savings information
  • A process to conduct an annual water supply and demand assessment
  • Supply reliability analysis

The demand forecast accounts for changes in socio-economic factors, such as the number of projected housing units, the mix of single-family and multi-family dwellings, and employment growth.

2020 Urban Water Management Plan-San Diego County Water Authority-desalination

The 2020 UWMP highlights the value of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy to invest in highly reliable and locally controlled supplies from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Investments in local water supply

Conservation projections account for continued adoption of water-use efficiency measures, compliance with landscape water-use ordinances for new residential construction, and continued installations of sustainable landscapes at existing homes. Since 1991, San Diego County ratepayers have conserved more than 1 million acre-feet of water, and per capita potable water use in the region decreased nearly 50% between fiscal years 1990 and 2020.

The 2020 UWMP also highlights the value of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy to invest in highly reliable and locally controlled supplies from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant and the nation’s largest conservation-and-transfer agreement, which provides high-priority, low-cost water from the Colorado River.

In addition to the UWMP, the Water Authority also regularly updates its Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan, which focuses on the infrastructure necessary to meet projected long-term demands, and its Long-Range Financing Plan. Those documents work together to ensure the right mix of supplies and facilities to meet the region’s needs at an affordable cost.

Colorado River Aqueduct-Urban Water Management Plan-Water Authority

The nation’s largest conservation-and-transfer agreement, which provides high-priority, low-cost water from the Colorado River, is one of several investments that ensures a reliable, plentiful water supply for the San Diego County region. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Opinion: Investment in Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir Will Ensure Water Supply

California just recorded its’ third driest winter in history, so it’s no surprise that State Water Project deliveries have been cut to just 5% of contracted amounts.

This is bad news for regional water agencies who collectively depend on the State Water Project for a fourth of their water supply.

But these agencies have seen the climate change writing on the wall for a long time. In fact, Southern California has been in an extended drought for the last 20 years. Because of this, 11 San Bernardino Valley water agencies have identified close to $650 million worth of local stormwater capture, storage and recycling projects they plan to build over the next 50 years to lessen their dependence on State Water Project imports.

San Diego County Mitigation Efforts Aid in California Drought Battle

As the drought deepens throughout California, San Diego County has postured itself to make it through dry spell conditions as a result of planning and mitigation efforts.

After experiencing a severe drought in the early 1990s, San Diego County officials went to work on diversifying its water supply. At the time, the region was hit with 50% supply reductions because it relied almost entirely on a single source. Since then, however, the San Diego County Water Authority has taken a varied approach. According to the authority, the region has added a new transfer of conserved agriculture water from Imperial Valley and completed the All-American and Coachella Canal lining projects to receive conserved water from the Colorado River.

“The Water Authority’s draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan shows that regional investments in a ‘water portfolio approach’ to supply management and a sustained emphasis on water-use efficiency mean that San Diego County will continue to have sufficient water supplies through the 2045 planning horizon – so the region’s residents and economy remain safe even during multiple dry years,” the authority told 10News.

Water Usage Down Sharply in San Diego, Shrinking City’s Reliance on Expensive Imported Supplies

San Diego’s vulnerability to water shortages and drought is shrinking significantly because residents and businesses are using less water and city officials are boosting the local supply.

A new city analysis shows local water use dropped sharply from 81.5 billion gallons in 2007 to about 57 billion gallons in 2020, even though the city’s population has grown about 1 percent per year over that time.