GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Archive for the ‘Colorado River’ Category

San Diego’s connection to the Colorado River

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 12, 2012

Halla Razak, P.E., Colorado River Program Director at the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) provides an overview of the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the associated canal linings and the benefits to the San Diego area.

(Slides shown on the video are unclear; clear slides via Slideshare are shown below, you can just follow along by clicking through the slideshow):

 

Posted in Colorado River, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water | Leave a Comment »

Mexico might receive Colorado River water via the All-American Canal

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 1, 2011

A proposal to build a turnout on the All-American Canal in order to convey some of Mexico’s Colorado River water to Mexicali, Tecate, Ensenada, and Tijuana during an emergency (like another catastrophic earthquake) disrupting the existing delivery system is being considered through the Colorado River Binational Discussions process — an ongoing series of discussions between Mexican and U.S. agencies working on Colorado River water supply and water management issues

[This account is based on a briefing on the Mexico-U.S. Binational Discussions given at the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Imported Water Committee meeting last Thursday, July 28 [agenda packet]. Colorado River Program Director Halla Razak delivered the update.]

_____________________________________________________

East of El Centro. The newly-lined All-American Canal is wide, deep, and swiftly flowing.

All-American Canal

The Colorado River is the main source of water for the state of Baja California. After the river enters Mexico, an aqueduct starting in Mexicali brings water west for Tijuana and other locales.

In the aftermath of the 2010 Baja California earthquake, the aqueduct and other canals were damaged, and for a time Tijuana was in a vulnerable position. Later, looking for ways to avoid dependence solely on the single aqueduct, Mexico expressed interest in using the All-American Canal to convey some Colorado River water to Mexico during emergencies so as to provide an extra margin of supply reliability.

The idea was presented at the Colorado River Binational Discussions and a workgroup was set up to work out a plan. Members of the workgroup are:

  • San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA)
  • Imperial Irrigation District (IID)
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD)
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
  • Central Arizona Project (CAP)
  • Various Mexican government agencies

For the next year or so the workgroup will work on design, permitting, and funding. It will also work with the International Boundary and Water Commission (which oversees the 1944 treaty with Mexico regarding water deliveries between the two countries) to determine terms and conditions for implementing the project, and the Bureau of Reclamation which coordinates the Colorado River Basin States’ input to the negotiations.

Ms. Razak indicated that the workgroup is looking at a connection with 200 CFS capacity beginning at the western end of the All-American Canal, near the turnout for the Westside Main Canal.

If all goes well, it is hoped that construction could be completed in early 2014.

Although the City of San Diego isn’t a member of the workgroup, it will have some say in the project because it owns a portion of the capacity rights in the All-American Canal. That’s another story in itself — here’s a fact sheet explaining it. San Diego shoulders some expense in maintaining those capacity rights and will be looking for an agreeable financial outcome should this project be implemented.

Background

The April 2010 Baja California earthquake, as many of us are aware, devastated Mexico’s water infrastructure in the region. An Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) newsletter said an estimated 300 km of canals were knocked out of service [link]. Details on the effects of the earthquake are documented in this EERI Reconnaissance Report.

What was the fate of the water heading toward the unusable canals? Would it just be diverted out to sea?

That brings us back to the Colorado River Binational Process. In normal times they work on long-term strategic issues but during the last year their main focus has been dealing with the impacts of the earthquake. The All-American Canal project was an idea that came recently, relatively speaking. An earlier development was a U.S. suggestion that Mexico be permitted to temporarily store up to 200,000 acre feet in Lake Mead, as summarized in this Colorado River Board report:

“…with the large magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Mexicali Valley in early April, water deliveries from a large number of the canals in the Mexicali Valley have been disrupted. To assist Mexico in coping with this situation, the United States has suggested that, in the interest of international comity and as a one-time program, Mexico would be allowed to store up to 200,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir system in the United States this year and then be allowed to request the delivery of the stored water during calendar year 2011. […] Mexico has considered this offer made by the United States and is proposing that this offer by the United States be incorporated into a more comprehensive deal that includes the concepts that are currently being discussed by the two countries to pursue Bi-National projects that could benefit both countries.”

As things turned out, however, the temporary storage wasn’t much needed. According to Mark Watton, Chair of the Imported Water Committee, Mexico has been slow to take advantage of that offer because the farmers, not wanting to wait for canal repairs, began digging their own diversion ditches and were able to irrigate their crops.

Mr. Watton observed that wasn’t the first time Mexican farmers were able to wrangle some extra water. He said a number of years ago (mid 90s?) the Colorado River had surplus water and about 3 million acre feet (MAF) went to Mexico that year (the U.S. treaty obligation to Mexico is 1.5 MAF). Despite doubling the usual volume of water entering Mexico, Watton recalled, not a single drop made it to the Gulf. Why? The upstream farmers captured and used all the extra water.

A short video documenting damaged and then repaired canals and other water conveyance work was also played for the committee. San Diego County Water Authority kindly gave me a copy with permission to post it here (I added the credits at the beginning).

 

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Videos, Water | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

In pursuit of water for San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 2, 2010

Check this tidbit from a new National Geographic series on global water issues:

Throughout the Southwest, and particularly in a region that I know, the Colorado River Basin, the so called “water buffalos” (those who line their pockets with virtual water) commonly talk about this river as though it has not run dry.

In Las Vegas I interviewed Mulroy and saw the largest reservoir in the nation, Lake Mead, sunken to an alarming low tide. So low, in fact, that the Southern Nevada Water Authority is drilling a pipeline under the lake so that it can continue to take its share until the river-fed reservoir runs dry.

Take a look to the east of Las Vegas with Google or Bing satellite images and you can find lakeside developments and boat launch ramps near Lakeshore Rd. that are stranded far from the water (and those images could be years old, it was better then). I sometimes wonder if Lake Mead will ever again look full; indeed, if everybody doesn’t cut back on their withdrawals, I wonder if it will ever stop dropping. Las Vegas doesn’t seem optimistic about that.

Northern California and the Delta are another unpleasant thought. Natural disasters and political and legal warfare between statewide environmental, agricultural, and urban/rural interests are a constant threat to a stable supply of water for San Diego.

Either way, San Diego clings to the extreme end of a couple of long, worn, tenuous, lifelines — with lots of hangers-on above us.

So, in the spirit of reducing reliance on outside water, the San Diego City Council just approved a small-scale demonstration IPR water treatment facility. For one year it will produce 1 million gallons per day while limnology models are studied and water quality is analyzed. After the demonstration is finished, San Diego will face a bigger decision — whether to expand that into a full-scale IPR reservoir augmentation system producing 16 million gallons per day.

That’s not very much water. During the debate over the demonstration facility, one of Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s stated reasons for opposing the plan was that it’s too small to make a difference. In that I think she’s right. It’s not much water, and I suspect the modest parameter of the current project reflects political timidity about IPR more than a realistic appraisal of our situation and feel sure that many regional water agency planners would agree. Certainly the just-released Equinox Center report would agree.

The output of the Carlsbad desalination plant will be 50 million gallons per day. That’s a fair amount of water. Why don’t we aim higher for IPR as well? While there’s still time for us to make adjustments to the design plan, I think it would behoove us to instead at least match that 50 mgd. If we’re going to do IPR, we should do it in serious volume.

I don’t think it can be repeated enough: San Diego’s in no position to relax about developing local water sources, and our options are limited. It certainly doesn’t look good for us if a drain under Lake Mead is now needed for Las Vegas as the water level drops below their “drinking straw.” In San Diego we’ve pursued desalination, we’ve pursued conservation, we’ve pursued more groundwater, but we’ve hesitated about IPR. What we should do is pursue even more IPR.

A bathtub ring reveals low level at San Vicente Reservoir while the dam is being raised to increase capacity. When that's finished, IPR could help keep it full.

 

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Water, Water Purification Demonstration Project | 6 Comments »

Wake up time

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 25, 2010

This screenshot from John Fleck’s blog sums it up nicely:

 

John Fleck is a science reporter for the Albuquerque Journal. I recommend his blog…San Diego has more in common with Albuquerque than many people might suspect.

 

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Preserving Colorado River resources in the Grand Canyon

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 9, 2010

It turns out that a high-flow experiment conducted by USGS to flush extra water from Glen Canyon Dam down the Colorado River in order to restore riverbanks and sandbars turned out to be a wash. Sandbar development occurred but once normal flows of clean water returned, so did the erosion.

Here’s what I think. Bring in one of those ocean sand-dredging machines to Glen Canyon Dam. Instead of pumping sediment out and dumping it somewhere, simply stir it up and let it flow out with the water being released. Voila! A year-round supply of sediment to maintain riverbanks and sandbars.

 

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 14, 2009

July 2009: low water level in Lake Mead near Hoover Dam

Whether you believe global warming contributes to drought or that when the drought is over our problems will go away, the fact is that water scarcity is not a temporary condition in Southern California. For one thing, our access to Colorado River water is decreasing. But California’s take of Colorado River water is not dropping because of drought or politics. Yes, there is growth and development everywhere and western states are taking more water from the Colorado River than ever, but the reason for our reduction is that we have to stop taking more than we are legally entitled to.

For years California withdrew more than its legal allotment of Colorado River water by as much as 800,000 acre feet per year. This was permitted because other states, primarily Arizona and Nevada, were not taking the full amount they are legally entitled to. But as those states increasingly began taking their share, California was forced to begin making adjustments to live within its means and move to comply with its legal allocation of 4.4 million acre feet per year. So, too, San Diego is adjusting to a reduction in water deliveries from the Colorado River that will be permanent, in addition to the latest cutbacks from Northern California. Plus, even when the Colorado River flows at “normal” levels — a rate which is increasingly uncertain — it may not produce enough water to permit everybody to take their full share, especially when you consider that the allotments were based on unrealistically high flow rate projections.

San Diego’s heavy dependence on Colorado River water places it in a very vulnerable position, especially with the prospect of reduced deliveries from northern California. Fortunately, these days a growing number of San Diegans are becoming more aware of our heavy dependence on imported water and the importance of long-term sustainable approaches to meet our demand. My question is: how much will citizens support further recycling to make San Diego more independent in providing for its water requirements?

The San Diego County Water Authority and the San Diego Water Department began working many years ago on ways to reduce our reliance on imported water. They negotiated the purchase of water conserved by Imperial Valley farmers for transfer to San Diego. We’re currently receiving water under the agreement although two new lawsuits challenging the transfer were recently filed [–yes, technically that’s still imported water]. A new desalination plant is in the works in Carlsbad (that’s still being challenged as well). The San Vicente Dam is being raised to increase its capacity. Additional groundwater sources are being studied. Two water reclamation plants were built to treat wastewater for irrigation and industrial use in the northern and southern regions (and the city could probably use a third for the central areas). There is renewed emphasis on water conservation. And now more important than ever, there’s the possibility of highly advanced treatment of wastewater for indirect potable reuse.

North City Water Reclamation Plant

Actually, the San Diego City Council in 1989 passed an ordinance requiring wide use of recycled water. For whatever reasons, recycling then languished for years. Then growing support for recycling led to the construction of the two recycling plants, but an indirect potable water reuse project was vetoed by Mayor Sanders in 2007. Although scientific studies established that water quality from highly advanced treatment not only equals but exceeds the quality of water that is currently distributed for potable purposes, the mayor and other opponents of the plan used the “toilet-to-tap” label and other inflammatory rhetoric to fight the project. Fortunately, clearer minds prevailed and the veto was overridden by the city council (Mike Lee recounts this history at http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080308/news_1n8pipes.html).

The Water Purification Demonstration Project is making some progress now. The project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of providing highly advanced treatment and disinfection for 1 million gallons of water per day, bringing it to indirect potable standards and supplementing the city’s water supplies by blending it with water in the San Vicente reservoir.

The San Diego Water Department is planning to give a presentation on this topic at UCSD sometime in January. They also will submit a public outreach and education contract proposal to the city council in early 2010. Keep your eyes open for announcements. [update below]

A moderate amount of recycled water is being used now, but there’s plenty of unused production capacity. Purifying it to indirect potable standards could and should be a significant component of San Diego’s efforts to reduce reliance on imported water. If the IPR study is successful and the technology is approved for production, the process could produce up to 16MGD of potable water. It absolutely makes sense to reuse as much water as possible that otherwise goes wasted into the ocean. When the Water Department’s outreach and education efforts begin rolling out next year, I hope enlightened San Diegans will reject the fearmongering by opponents and throw their support behind this worthwhile project.

UPDATE Jan 27, 2010:The public outreach contract mentioned above was brought to the Jan. 26 San Diego City Council meeting where they approved “an Agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the Project Management and Public Outreach for the Demonstration Project, in an amount not to exceed $3,281,353.” (City Council Docket Item #334)

For continuing coverage on indirect potable reuse, please see the Indirect potable reuse page

Click here for background resources

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers