GrokSurf's San Diego

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

Sneak preview: draft annual report from the San Diego Independent Rates Oversight Committee

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 15, 2011

[possible subtitle: Charting San Diego’s water future]

The 2010 draft annual report from the San Diego Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) was on the agenda for today’s meeting.

Water conservation, water rates (and how the Carlsbad desal project may impact them), recycled water, capital improvement programs, and wastewater treatment are among the topics committee members are interested in. Since I’ve expressed concern in earlier blog posts that not enough City effort seems to be going towards large-scale potable reuse, I was happy to see the report emphasize that we should not wait for the completion of the Water Purification Demonstration Project to expand our vision for potable reuse. The Environmental & Technical Subcommittee also mentioned: “An additional concern is that sufficient planning has not gone into what needs to be done to move ahead with an operational Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) system…”

Approval on the annual report was deferred because the Finance Committee portion was seen to contain excessive detail and be inappropriate for an annual report. Indeed, the City Comptroller said at the meeting that he was one of maybe only 10 people in the city who would even understand it (here’s the draft PDF, judge for yourself). The Finance report will be rewritten and discussed at the next meeting.

A copy of the IROC draft annual report is displayed below (or if you prefer use this link for the PDF). Please remember that this is a draft and is subject to further revision.

3 Responses to “Sneak preview: draft annual report from the San Diego Independent Rates Oversight Committee”

  1. Burt Freeman said

    The Water Purification Demonstration Program contains several tasks still in progress. These, based on the North City Three (NC-3) water reuse plan, are slated for completion in order that a phase 3 implementation effort might be presented to the City Council for consideration. NC-3 proposes to use a part of the tertiary treated water from the North City Water Treatment Plant (NCWTP) left over from recycled water (purple pipe) sales. One of these tasks is to evaluate the cost of NC-3 water and another is to assess the viability of retaining water in San Vicente reservoir. Answers to whether NC-3 is technically feasible and cost-effective are not yet available. Further, the amount of water is limited to the capacity of NCWTP.

    So how large is “large-scale” potable reuse and where will the tertiary water come from? What further should be done (and money spent) before a presentation is made to the City Council? Some preliminary engineering will, hopefully, be carried out to determine the cost of NC-3 were it to be approved by the Council.

    • I think “large-scale” potable reuse should be in the vicinity of a 50mgd operation, parallel to the planned output from the Poseidon desalination project. The existing plans for an ultimate 16mgd potable reuse facility are just too timid, I believe.

      The North City Water Reclamation Plant demonstration facility was designed with expansion in mind and there appears to be sufficient undeveloped land surrounding the overall facility to accomodate more than was originally contemplated.

      I agree expense and logistics are concerns but if the city seriously wants to reduce dependence on water imports and increase reliability, potable reuse must be a significant part of the water portfolio. The same could be said for desalination, it’s true, but the Poseidon desal project in Carlsbad should be seen as a regional resource, not a city one. Indeed, the city itself will not purchase any desal water (it treats all its own water and thus purchases only raw untreated water from SDCWA), so it will benefit indirectly from the Poseidon operation in that CWA has estimated that the Poseidon desal will translate into an 8% “drought-proof” source for the region as a whole.

      • Burt Freeman said

        IF we are talking about NC-3 as a baseline, the amount of water to be made available is not 16MGD, but the 10,500 AFY (significantly less, primarily to rejection of some of the inflow) contained in the 2006 document. How much would it cost to expand NCWTP? How would retention time in San Vicente be affected by increased inflow?

        It seems to me that it is premature to take a position on a project (such as IPR) until there is some reasonable certainty that it is technically feasible and that the cost is not exorbitant.

        You are right that not all water is the same, quality-wise. Balancing sources of treated and untreated water with storage and treatment facilities, in particular, is a major issue.

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