GrokSurf's San Diego

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

Posts Tagged ‘Water policy’

On the proposed overhaul of San Diego’s water policy

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 3, 2011

At yesterday’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee meeting, Councilmember Sherri Lightner unveiled her proposal for an overhaul of San Diego water policy. Click here to see the draft policy.

I addressed the committee during the public comments period. Here’s what I had to share:

Good afternoon. My name is George Janczyn. I publish a San Diego water blog and I would like to share some comments on the overhaul of San Diego’s water policy.

First, although we’ve experienced a fairly wet rainy season, the policy should not succumb to popular pressure to ease water use restrictions. Despite our efforts to develop more local supplies like desalination, Indirect Potable Reuse, and groundwater resources, the fact is that San Diego will always get most of its water by importing it. But our northern California supply is being reduced because of limits on pumping from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta; and our current Colorado River allocation is threatened because demand by the lower basin states exceeds what the river can sustain, even if one leaves climate change out of the equation. Eventually there could be reductions in water from the Colorado River as well.

As demand for water grows in San Diego, providing a reliable supply will become more challenging.

San Diegans need to develop a mindset for living in an arid region and discard the notion that strict conservation is needed only periodically when there’s a severe drought. San Diego needs a policy of more rigorous conservation practices…and permanently, not just when there’s a dry year.

Second, the policy should be more assertive in supporting potable reuse for high-quality and reliable local water. Despite the fact that the previous city councils strongly promoted a potable reuse policy, some committee votes more recently have actually hindered development on that front and the new proposed water policy only half-heartedly offers this:

“Support indirect potable reuse if the Water Purification Demonstration Project is successful.”

We need to look forward on the use of IPR.

The original plan was to have full-scale IPR reservoir augmentation that will produce only 16 million gallons per day. What the committee should do now is look into the feasibility of increasing that amount to a meaningful number, say 50 million gallons per day using Direct Potable Reuse, so that it would be on a par with the output of the upcoming Poseidon desalination plant.

Planning for an eventual 50 million gallons per day for San Vicente reservoir augmentation would require study. In order to accommodate that much capacity, the use of San Vicente Reservoir as a six-month environmental buffer might not be possible. While the reservoir could still be used for storage of the purified reclaimed water, the higher volume of water would mean more turnover in the reservoir so the time period would have to be shorter – in essence the indirect potable reuse aspect would cross over into being Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) which would raise new questions about safeguards.

On that topic, note that California Senate Bill 918 (Pavley) would require the State Department of Public Health, in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board, to investigate the feasibility of developing water recycling criteria for DPR. More immediately, I’ve learned the WateReuse Research Foundation might soon support a study on DPR feasibility. The NR&C committee should consider asking the Public Utilities Department to support or coordinate with the Foundation on such research.

In any case, San Diego water policy should more firmly promote Potable Reuse as an integral component of our water strategy.

Thank you.

See also:

Posted in Indirect potable reuse, Natural Resources and Culture Committee, Water, Water conservation | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

IROC endorses “in concept” proposed San Diego water policy

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 22, 2011

The Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) met today with an agenda that took more time than was scheduled, even though meetings were recently lengthened to 2 1/2 hours. Several items had to be deferred for a future meeting as the time approached 3 hours.

San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner presented a draft copy of her proposed “Comprehensive Policy for a Sustainable Water Supply in San Diego.”

Background: in Oct 2009 Lightner wrote a memo complaining about inconsistencies in San Diego’s water policy and lack of follow-through on expansion of purple pipe infrastructure for delivery of recycled water for irrigation and industrial use. There was apparently no further action taken on that memo, however, and it languished for most of the year.

Possibly frustrated, in July 2010 Lightner voted in opposition to the advanced IPR water treatment facility for the city’s Water Purification Demonstration Project (it passed 6-2 with DeMaio also voting against), citing the lack of a comprehensive water policy as a reason for her vote.

Lightner renewed her call for a new policy in memorandums submitted to the Natural Resources and Culture Committee in February 2011, and the draft submitted to IROC today is the first stab at that. I’ve only scanned it, but my initial impression is that it needs more focus and refinement. Read it and decide for yourself, though. A scanned copy is reproduced at the bottom of this post.

IROC voted to “support in concept” Lightner’s draft policy, although member Andrew Hollingworth expressed concern that such a policy not become a “back door to implementing growth control.” Also, chair Jim Peugh indicated that he prefers less emphasis on purple pipe and more on IPR (indirect potable reuse).

In other committee action, Barbara Lamb gave a presentation on the city’s Managed Competition Program which, despite being billed as not outsourcing and not privatization, could have that effect if a city department loses a function to an outside contractor and “goes away.” Mr. Hollingworth observed that he has trouble seeing how the Public Utilities Department can compete on projects when PUD pension costs are double those in the private sector. PUD Assistant Director Alex Ruiz countered that he’s not so sure the difference is that extreme and that the department also has other major strengths with which to compete.

There was a brief update on auditing to be done on the uses of PUD funds associated with rate increases and other financials.

The Harbor Drive Trunk Sewer project funding from DRES reserves was approved. Hollingworth voted no because he thought it an inappropriate use of DRES funds, while the prevailing sentiment was that it was a cash-flow adjustment for a critical project required by an EPA consent decree, not a raid of reserves for petty reasons.

Regarding the sale of PUD land to the Carlton Oaks Country Club, chair Peugh expressed concern about giving up a regular source of income from that property in exchange for a one-time sale payment. City staff are convinced, though, by the country club’s claim that a sale is the only way it can afford to maintain operations there. In other words, without a sale, the club will cease operations and income will stop and there are no other potential users or buyers.

Here’s Lightner’s draft policy:


Posted in Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC), Water | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »