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The Fight Over Monterey Peninsula’s Water Future is a Debate Over Who Gets To Decide

What is at stake is the water supply for the Monterey Peninsula. Consuming water drawn from the Carmel River is no longer feasible, neither ecologically nor legally. But the power to decide on an alternative supply is largely vested in the hands of public officials from outside the region.

San Diego regional water quality regulators issued a new permit for the development of permanent, stand-alone seawater intake and discharge facilities at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego’s Water Portfolio Approach ‘Model for California’

State officials Thursday toured San Diego County water infrastructure to get a first-hand look at the region’s successful water portfolio approach for supply diversification.

California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel were here to assess the region’s water projects as part of their new role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Jim Madaffer tweet on water portfolio tour July 2019

Portfolio approach benefits region

“The region is proof that the portfolio approach works,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to develop local projects and explore opportunities that would benefit the region, the state, Mexico and the Southwest.”

At a luncheon meeting and panel discussion at University of California, San Diego following the tour, the agency officials joined a group of more than 150 people to hear how the portfolio approach can help California and the Southwest meet water supply challenges.

Along with the Water Authority Board of Directors, elected officials, business, community and state and local leaders gathered in an auditorium at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on the La Jolla campus.

Jim Madaffer and Water Portfolio approach

“The state needs to look at a global approach to managing water,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

Madaffer said during the meeting that San Diego’s portfolio approach has been successful in increasing the region’s water supply reliability through diversification and innovation.

“The Water Authority’s model is one that can be replicated across the state to help ensure a secure water future for all Californians,” said Madaffer.

State agency leaders echoed Madaffer’s comments.

“San Diego has been a leader in the water portfolio approach,” said Wade Crowfoot. “We have to make the investments to build regional water resilience as part of the Governor’s order to develop a portfolio to manage water in California.”

Water resilience portfolio for 21st century 

The Water Authority invited the officials to visit after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order in April, directing state agencies to “prepare a water resilience portfolio that meets the needs of California’s communities and environment through the 21st century.”

In his May letter to Newsom, Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19, and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

Newsom’s order also directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

California officials tour San Diego County water infrastructure

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure. Photo: Water Authority

The California Natural Resources Agency, the California EPA, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Finance, were directed by Gov. Newsom to, among other tasks, “identify key priorities for the administration’s water portfolio moving forward.”

“Governor Newsom wants us to think long and broadly on water,” said Crowfoot. “He wants us to get away from the silos and conflicts on water in California – the mindset of environment groups versus farmers, north versus south, urban versus rural – and work together on water resiliency.”

Significant investments in regional water strategy

“The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have made significant investments in the last two decades to diversify our water supply, creating a portfolio of resources to support our region’s 3.3 million people and $231 billion economy,” said Madaffer.

During the tour, the officials got a first-hand look at some of those investments, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir

The Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir are a cornerstone of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Emergency and Carryover Storage Project, helping to protect the region from severe water supply shortages. Photo: Water Authority

 

San Vicente Dam

The Water Authority is exploring a battery storage project at the San Vicente Reservoir that would generate clean energy to help meet California’s climate goals. Photo: Water Authority

Global Warming creates water supply challenges

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research meteorologist Dan Cayan told the audience that temperatures and dry spells will increase in California in the future, making water storage, conservation, and forecasts even more critical.

“Global warming climate models show the Sierra Nevada snow pack will be 50% less in 2090 than today’s average April 1 snowpack,” said Cayan.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research meteorologist Dan Cayan said temperatures and dry spells are expected to increase in California, making water storage, conservation and forecasts even more critical. Photo: Water Authority

Cayan said observations and climate model projections indicate climate change is occurring and will grow stronger. California should expect 1.5-2 degrees Fahrenheit warming by 2050, he said.

New regional pipeline study

Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dan Denham described a new study that will explore the viability of a regional pipeline to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple users in San Diego County and across the Southwest.

The pipeline system is one of a handful of ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

Graphic shows three proposed regional pipeline routes to deliver Colorado River Water

Map indicates three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route, (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Creating a pipeline to transfer Colorado River water to the San Diego region has been studied periodically over decades.

But the new study is focused on how a regional pipeline could provide multiple benefits as part of a long-term water management strategy for California and the Southwest.

The expanded review will consider a system that could create much-needed storage opportunities for the Imperial Irrigation District that could support agriculture while addressing critical issues like the Salton Sea and the need for more renewable energy development.

GOES satellite image of the atmospheric river phenomena from March 20, 2018.

California Funds Atmospheric Rivers Research

A better understanding and forecasting of atmospheric rivers could improve flood control and water management in California.

The 2019-20 California state budget includes $9.25 million to pay for research into how the state Department of Water Resources can more accurately track the intensity and landfall locations of atmospheric rivers. About half of the state’s annual rainfall and 90 percent of its flooding come from such events.

“Improved forecasting and monitoring of atmospheric river storms would benefit not only California, but the Southwest, in managing our water supply,” said Kelley Gage, director of water resources for the San Diego County Water Authority. “With better forecasting, water managers could also prepare and plan for flooding events caused by the atmospheric rivers.”

The science behind atmospheric rivers

The science behind atmospheric rivers. Graphic: NOAA

Rivers in the sky

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics, according to NOAA. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they release the water vapor in the form or rain or snow.

“The rivers can stretch from 250 to 370 miles wide and carry a water amount more than 7 times the volume of the Mississippi River,” said Alexi Schnell, water resources specialist with the Water Authority.

The research funds were allocated to the Department of Water Resources to “improve observations, forecasts and decisions in support of atmospheric river precipitation events” as part of the DWR’s Research, Mitigation, and Climate Forecasting Program.

Atmospheric Rivers

Atmospheric Rivers in Water Year 2019. Graphic: Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes

Volatile water resources

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that a new regime of wet and dry extremes is emerging in California. The study shows that the projected increase of extreme precipitation is likely to be caused by streams of moisture in the sky known as atmospheric rivers.

The study was published July 9 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

“California already has the most volatile water resources in the country,” according to a news release from Scripps. “Scripps scientists discovered that the state’s precipitation, as it becomes less frequent but preferentially stronger, will vacillate even more wildly between extremes of drought and flooding as a consequence of climate change.”

The federal Bureau of Reclamation, the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and NASA funded the study, “Precipitation regime change in Western North America: The role of Atmospheric Rivers.”

California weather extremes

“As Mediterranean climate regions around the world are becoming more subtropical, the dry season is expanding. California is no exception,” said Alexander Gershunov, a climate scientist at Scripps. “What is exceptional about California is that the heavy precipitation is projected to become more extreme. We knew this from our past work. Now we have identified the mechanism responsible for this bolstering of extremes, and that gives us a more nuanced understanding of what to expect from future hydroclimate and a clearer interpretation of ongoing changes.”

 

Atmospheric Rivers helped California's snowpack in Winter 2018-19.

For the year-to-date 2019, the precipitation total was 19.05 inches, 3.74 inches above average, and the wettest such period in the 125-year record. Graphic: NOAA

Atmospheric Rivers boost snowpack

During the 2018-19 winter, atmospheric river events significantly increased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. Both areas are key sources of water supply for the Southwest, including California and San Diego County.

Precipitation in the contiguous U.S. was above average from January to June 2019, according to a NOAA climate report released this week. The report said the 19.05 inches during the six-month period was 3.74 inches above average and the wettest such period in the 125-year record.

The January-to-June 2019 precipitation map showed California’s statewide precipitation was “above average” and “much above average.”

You May Survive The Big One, But LA’s Water Supply May Not

Seismologist Lucy Jones hikes through a dirt trail into a canyon, past a riverbed, and through some brush in Altadena. She kneels down and points at a thick layer of greenish-grey clay, snaking through the sloping terrain among rocks and dirt.

“This is the fault! Isn’t it amazing?”

All-American Canal in Imperial County

Study to Assess Regional Pipeline for Delivering Colorado River Water

A new study will explore the viability of a regional pipeline to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple users in San Diego County and across the Southwest.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors approved funds for the two-year study at its June 27 Board meeting. The pipeline system is one of a handful of ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

Regional pipeline

The Water Authority’s upcoming study will look at a regional conveyance system that could move Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) transfer water directly between the Imperial Valley and San Diego. The Colorado River Aqueduct currently conveys the QSA water through Riverside County before it flows to San Diego.

“It may be an idea whose time has come,” said Erik Ortega, president of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, referring to a proposed regional conveyance system.

Creating a pipeline to transfer Colorado River water to the San Diego region has been studied periodically over decades.

But the new study is focused on how a regional pipeline could provide multiple benefits as part of a long-term water management strategy for California and the Southwest.

Water storage

The expanded review will consider a system that could create much-needed storage opportunities for the IID that could support agriculture while addressing critical issues like the Salton Sea and the need for more renewable energy development.

Graphic shows three proposed regional pipeline routes to deliver Colorado River Water

Map shows three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route, (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Three pipeline routes

The pipeline under study would be designed at a capacity to convey the QSA water, which in 2021 will reach its full amount of 280,000 acre-feet of water annually. The current Water Transfer Agreement between IID and the Water Authority continues to 2047. But both agencies can agree to extend the transfer another 30 years to 2077.

As the study gets under way, there are three routes under consideration. Each of those routes would connect to the tail end of the All-American Canal where it meets the Westside Main Canal in the southwest corner of the Imperial Valley.

Two of the routes would follow a southern corridor between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, with one route over the mountains paralleling the U.S./Mexico border and the other tunneling underneath the mountains. Both routes would lead to the San Vicente Reservoir in San Diego.

The third and northernmost route would follow the Westside Main Canal toward the Salton Sea, then flow past Borrego Springs, and through the mountains. It would eventually connect to the Water Authority’s Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in San Marcos.

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors celebrated the agency’s 75th anniversary.

Water Authority Celebrates 75 Years of Service to San Diego County

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors celebrated the agency’s 75th anniversary during today’s Board meeting, which included 20 proclamations honoring the agency for its service to the region dating back to 1944.

Cities across the region joined the state Assembly and Senate, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and other state and local leaders to formally mark the occasion. The San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors even proclaimed today “San Diego County Water Authority Day” in honor of the agency’s legacy of water supply reliability.

75 years of service

“Starting with the historic first water deliveries in the 1940s, the Water Authority has partnered with our member agencies to build, operate and maintain the vital infrastructure that supports our region’s $231 billion economy and unparalleled quality of life,” said Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “Our collective investments have created extraordinary advances in water supply reliability that are sustained by the daily vigilance necessary to operate and maintain such a complex system.

“While today we celebrate the past, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to focus on the future by fostering innovative solutions to ever-changing water resource challenges,” Madaffer said. “Together, we will supply the San Diego region with safe and reliable water supplies for generations to come.”

San Diego County Water Authority service sArea and 24 member agencies

Since 1991, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have deployed one of the most aggressive water supply diversification strategies in the nation to improve regional water supply reliability. In the years ahead, member agency projects will play an increasingly important role in continuing to ensure reliability for the San Diego region.

Forward thinking on water

The Water Authority’s current forward-thinking efforts include developing water storage capacity in Lake Mead to provide additional drought resilience for San Diego and the Southwest.

The agency also is working closely with the City of San Diego to assess a potential pumped storage project at San Vicente Reservoir that could help meet clean energy goals and benefit water ratepayers. In addition, the Water Authority is analyzing the costs and benefits of a regional water conveyance system that could help San Diego County and the entire Southwest to more effectively manage water resources.

Profound impact

During today’s ceremonies, water agency, civic and business leaders noted the Water Authority’s profound impact on the San Diego region and wider water issues over the past 75 years.

  • “A reliable water supply is critical for San Diego’s regional economy and for maintaining a competitive business climate. The business community applauds the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies for their leadership, and for increasing the county’s water supply reliability with investments that keep our economy growing.” — Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
  • “It is a pleasure to celebrate the San Diego County Water Authority’s 75th anniversary. We share a common history and a common vision for water supply reliability that has been essential to the economic vitality and prosperity to all San Diegans. We look forward to strengthening our relationship to meet the future needs of San Diegans.” — Gloria D. Gray, chair, Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors
  • “Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply. Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently by adopting new technology and planting more-efficient crops.” — Eric Larson, executive director, San Diego County Farm Bureau
  • “On behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, I salute the San Diego County Water Authority on its 75th anniversary. Our two agencies are partners in the nation’s largest agriculture to urban transfer and in the process, we have forged a durable alliance at the Salton Sea. It is a relationship that the IID highly values.” — Erik Ortega, president, Imperial County Irrigation District Board of Directors
  • “By combining a diversified set of water supply sources with greatly enhanced storage capacity, we are developing a more robust safety net for San Diego County.” — Jerry Sanders, president and CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

On June 9, 1944, San Diego voters approved the Water Authority’s formation under the County Water Authority Act. Imported water arrived three years later to slake the thirst of a growing population just weeks before local supplies would have run out.

The modern era of the Water Authority started during deep, drought-induced water supply cuts in the early 1990s. Since then, Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have deployed one of the most aggressive water supply diversification strategies in the nation to improve regional water supply reliability.

At the same time, the agencies have aggressively helped to reduce per capita water use so that the total regional water use today is well below 1990 levels despite significant growth in the population and economy.

San Vicente Aqueduct

Officials commemorate installation of the first portion of pipe along the new Second Pipeline of the San Vicente Aqueduct in 1951. Photo: Water Authority

75th anniversary milestones

The Water Authority reached several major milestones over the past two decades. They include:

  • In 2003, Olivenhain Dam was the first major new dam built in San Diego in more than 50 years. At 318 feet, it was the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam at the time.
  • In 2008, the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant north of San Marcos began operations. It was the largest submerged membrane water treatment plant in the world when it was commissioned.
  • In 2011, the San Vicente Tunnel and Pipeline Project – an 11-mile long, 12-foot diameter tunnel with an 8-1/2-foot diameter pipeline – created a link from the City of San Diego’s San Vicente Reservoir to the Water Authority’s Second Aqueduct, greatly improving the Water Authority’s ability to distribute water and store water in the reservoir.

San Vicente Dam raise

  • In 2012, the Lake Hodges Hydropower Facility started serving the dual purposes of connecting the lake to the Water Authority’s aqueduct system and generating 40 megawatts of clean, on-demand electricity.
  • In 2014, the San Vicente Dam Raise Project, the tallest dam-raise project in U.S. history, expanded the reservoir’s capacity by more than 157,000 acre-feet.
  • In 2015, the $1 billion Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, distribution pipeline and related facilities started commercial operations as the largest seawater desalination project in North America.
  • The Water Authority’s Asset Management Program, which includes a multi-year project to reline 82 miles of large-diameter prestressed concrete cylinder pipelines with new steel liners, helps to prevent pipeline failure and extend their lifespans by 75 years or more at significantly less cost than traditional pipeline replacement programs.
San Diego regional water quality regulators issued a new permit for the development of permanent, stand-alone seawater intake and discharge facilities at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego regional water quality regulators issued a new permit in May 2019 for the development of permanent, stand-alone seawater intake and discharge facilities at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

Worldwide recognition

The Water Authority’s innovative efforts have been recognized nationally and internationally.

In 2017, for instance, the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project for winning ASCE’s top international engineering award.

The same year, Water Authority was honored by the Association of California Water Agencies – the nation’s largest statewide coalition of water agencies – for innovation and excellence in water resources management with its addition of supplies from the Carlsbad Desalination Project. And in 2016, the Water Authority received a top national award from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies for its commitment to improving the region’s water supply reliability in a manner that balances economic, social and environmental needs.

Can Utah’s Water Supply Keep Up With Its Booming Population?

Will Utah’s water supply catch up with the state’s rising population, expected to double by 2065? It was one of the several questions posed at Utah State University’s Research Landscapes series focused on Utah’s waterscapes. The event Tuesday at the O.C. Tanner headquarters in Salt Lake City attracted a mix of state and local government officials, businesses leaders, developers and nonprofit organizations. Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, said now is a great point in time to reflect on Utah’s water, as he remembers a time when talking about water would invoke ridicule or hostility.

Switchfoot Guitarist Jon Foreman Sings Praises of San Diego Water Reliability

Switchfoot Guitarist Jon Foreman Sings Praises of San Diego Water Supply Reliability

The San Diego County Water Authority has partnered with San Diego singer and guitarist Jon Foreman of Switchfoot to create a series of videos highlighting the value of water to the region’s economy and quality of life.

From sustaining world-famous tourist destinations to making world-class guitars, the San Diego lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without clean and reliable water supplies delivered by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

“It takes a huge investment from the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies to maintain the pipes that deliver water across our region,” Foreman says in one of the videos.

Reliable water supply fuels San Diego economy

The video series includes virtual tours of the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir, and the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon.

Foreman talks with Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., about the importance of water to some of the region’s biggest industries.

He also tours the Water Conservation Garden, where residents and businesses can learn how to use water efficiently and “make the most out of every drop.”

BRO-AM brought to you by water

The Water Authority is sponsoring Switchfoot’s annual BRO-AM beach festival, which is set for June 29 at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

The Water Authority’s Brought to You by Water outreach and education program is designed to convey the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy.

Starting in 2018, the Water Authority has highlighted some of the region’s core industries – tourism, manufacturing, brewing and agriculture – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

OPINION: California Needs Water, Not Stubborn Political Games

After years of defending its proposed water grab from our region’s rivers, the state Water Board chose to ignore all science and impose orders to take the water anyway. Likewise, until recently when Gov. Newsom wisely said “no” to the twin tunnels, the state insisted on devastating the Delta by stubbornly refusing to consider alternatives. And five years after passage of the historic 2014 water bond, no new water storage facilities have even started construction. The state does a fine job of reducing water supplies to communities in need – whether through conservation orders or new groundwater restrictions, both of which are important parts of the solution to protecting and preserving water supplies for the future.

Matthew G Phy tweeted this photo and two other photos in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest.

San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights Agriculture

More than 260 photos were submitted during May as part of the “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” highlighting how safe and reliable water supplies fuel the region’s thriving agriculture industry. The San Diego County Water Authority hosted the social media contest during Water Awareness Month.

The contest highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. As one of the nation’s top producers of avocados, ornamental trees and shrubs, flowers, succulents, lemons, and other agricultural products, San Diego County farms cover approximately 250,000 acres and generate $4.8 billion in total annual economic activity.

Photos were posted to Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #B2UbyH2O and came from home gardens, local farms, community gardens and farmers’ markets throughout the region.

A giant Swiss chard was one of the most liked in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest in May 2019.

Kristina Cornejo submitted this photo on Twitter of a giant Swiss Chard in the San Diego Grown Photo Contest.

One participant on Instagram thanked the Water Authority, posting this comment: “Things like these are what bring Communities together and brings awareness to the importance of water in our lives!”

Contest ‘Brought To You By Water’

The San Diego Grown Photo Contest was part of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, designed to convey the importance of water supply reliability for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies work together to meet current and future water demands, while promoting water-use efficiency.

Qualifying submissions received prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations including Specialty Produce, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Jimbo’s … Naturally.

Over the past year, the Water Authority has highlighted an array of the region’s core industries – including tourism, manufacturing and brewing – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Those industries provide tens of thousands of jobs that help make San Diego County universally regarded as one of the best places to live. The regional economy is made possible, in part, by continued investments in the pumps, pipes, projects and people who deliver more than 450,000 acre-feet of water per year for everything from washing hotel towels and growing avocados to brewing craft beer and building ships.

Follow #B2UbyH2O on Instagram and Twitter to see all the photos.