Panel: Signs of the tide — San Diego’s water supply
Posted by George J Janczyn on December 9, 2010
“Signs of the tide — San Diego’s water supply” was the title of an interactive panel discussion hosted by San Diego Coastkeeper yesterday evening at the Urban Corps of San Diego County facility in the Midway area.
Panelists were David Pierce, Analyst, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Jared Criscuolo, Co-founder, Below the Surface; Bruce Reznik, Advocate, San Diego Coastkeeper; and Brook Sarson, Owner, H2Ome, and the moderator was Rob Davis, Senior Writer, Voice of San Diego.
The first speaker, David Pearce, delivered an overview of San Diego’s water supply situation. Using slides with maps and charts, he set up the dynamic of our need to import 80% of our water and a growing population against how expected water shortages, climate change, economics, issues with the California Delta, and decreasing Colorado River Basin runoff present difficult challenges to plan and make adjustments for. He illustrated how the price of water rises at each stage of the delivery process and commented about the low price for farming use vs. high prices for urban use being a factor in water use and conservation, saying “people make different decisions when water is cheap.”
Next, Jared Criscuolo showed slides from his group’s “Spring to Sandtrap” canoe expedition to explore the headwaters of the Sacramento River through the State Water Project to the sprinklers at a Southern California golf course (the shot of that looked like it might be Palm Springs). He said that they had intended to but didn’t actually canoe through the SWP aqueduct because it was dangerous and also prohibited (someone behind me whispered “they better not have…that’s drinking water!”). The expedition documented how relatively pristine water conditions near the headwaters rapidly deteriorated as they went downstream where they encountered numerous facilities drawing water on the one hand and expelling wastewater on the other, with water becoming murkier and algae growth more prominent as they continued their journey.
Bruce Reznik spoke on organizing and planning issues for San Diego’s water future. He criticized the San Diego County Water Authority for lacking vision in their planning and observed that they seem to just gather information on projects and needs from member water agencies and then plug that into a master plan. He also complained about their charts illustrating increased diversification in water sources, saying they’re misleading because they count canal lining and the IID water transfer as representing a reduction in the imported water category where in fact that’s just a financial arrangement for getting more of the same imported water. After comparing various water supply options using data from Equinox Center reports, highlighting desal as an extreme that should be considered last resort, he concluded saying “solutions are easy, the problem is political will.”
Finally, Brook Sarson covered rainwater harvest, stormwater redirection, and greywater reuse design and cost issues. She talked about the mindset people have about getting water away from the house and property and the desirability of finding ways to redirect it into the local soil. She also covered practical issues with greywater use, noting that it’s a bit more involved because it often requires a permit, can’t be stored for longer than 24 hours, and can only be used on certain types of plants. She displayed slides from some the rainwater harvest projects she has installed locally through her H2Ome business.
Overall impression: a worthwhile informative gathering, but while turnout was probably around 100, most appeared to be people already well-schooled in water issues. I think the hope was to address more newbies who would be learning something new but I’m sure the organizers were gratified to see so many well-informed people coming together for this event.
Prior to starting we were treated to a light dinner of pizza and ice tea.
Dylan Edwards from Coastkeeper did the welcome and closing remarks.
The moderator Rob Davis gave a brief introduction to each panelist and fielded questions turned in from the audience on paper slips during the discussion.
One of the sponsors, San Diego Gas & Electric, had a small booth with pamphlets and information about the Smart Meter program.
I was told slides from the PowerPoint presentations will be made available by Coastkeeper, and I’ll add a link to them here when they’re available.