COSTS & IMPACT
San Diego’s water strategy deserves reward from state
San Diego Union Tribune, Stephen Cushman, Connie Matsui, Tom Page, 8/26/15
"Over the past 25 years, few communities across the nation have done as much to enhance water supply reliability as San Diego County. We have invested in new infrastructure that provides greater flexibility for responding to emergencies, dramatically expanded water storage capacity . . .
"This strategy is achieving its primary objective by helping the San Diego region become more resilient to drought conditions. Our region has enough water this year to meet 99 percent of its projected water demand – an extraordinary success story given that California is in the fourth consecutive year of drought. It’s an example of sound water supply planning and investment that should be emulated across the state . . .
"The State Water Resources Control Board should adjust [water restriction] targets in regions such as ours to reflect the development of new drought-proof supplies that reduce stress on other water resources such as the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. . . . Under the state’s current approach, we could get 100 percent of our water from desalination and still have to reduce water use by the prescribed amounts.
"The state has created a curious world in which water use and supplies are completely disconnected. So, even though our region has enough water to meet virtually all the demands, we can only use about 80 percent of it under state mandates. How can our economy continue to thrive with this constraint?
"This regulation also undermines one of the state’s overarching priorities – the development of new water supplies. If residents and businesses know they will face the same demands for water-use reduction from regulators no matter what they do, who would invest in new supplies? If businesses can’t count on these investments in water supply reliability, it makes it much harder to attract and retain the companies we need to maintain a robust economy. . . .
"Forward-thinking regions that invest in new drought-proof water supplies should be rewarded, not ignored. The development of these water resources is fundamental to our economy and quality of life.
Unintended consequences of conserving water: leaky pipes, less revenue, bad odors
Los Angeles Times, Matt Stevens, 9/1/15
"In a paradox of conservation, water agencies say the unprecedented savings — 31% in July over July 2013 — are causing or compounding a slew of problems.
"Sanitation districts are yanking tree roots out of manholes and stepping up maintenance on their pipes to prevent corrosion and the spread of odors. And when people use less potable water, officials say, there's less wastewater available to recycle.
"Water suppliers, meanwhile, say the dramatic decrease in consumption has created multimillion-dollar revenue shortfalls. . .
" 'The costs that we're going to face due to corroding pipes is going to be astronomical,' Tchobanoglous [professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis] said. 'It'll dwarf everything else.' . . .
"In San Francisco, officials say foul odors have become noticeable in low-lying and flat areas of the city where gravity cannot help push solids through the system.
"Sanitation officials in Orange County say that although their system is generally holding up well, they have had to flush and clean the pipes more often. Since the wastewater ends up with a higher concentration of solids, the pumps that lift and move the water could get worn down faster, officials said.
" 'Did we know the drought was coming and it would cause these things? Not necessarily,' said Rob Thompson, director of engineering at the Orange County Sanitation District. . . .
"At the Leucadia Wastewater District in northern San Diego County, officials have run into a different problem.Without normal levels of outdoor irrigation, tree roots desperately in search of water have invaded sewer pipes and grown there over time. . . .
"Last December, when workers investigated a sewer spill, they found a 4- to 6-inch-wide tree root inside a pipe. Just 16 months earlier, an inspection found the sewer line 'clean and clear,' said Paul Bushee, general manager of the Leucadia Wastewater District. . . . 'We didn't think a root could go from nothing to this larger-diameter root in a year and four months.'
"The Yorba Linda Water District is under state orders to slash its water consumption 36% over the next several months. A cut that size is projected to reduce revenue about $9 million over the course of the current fiscal year, district spokesman Damon Micalizzi said.
"The water district had been planning to ask for a gradual rate increase over five years, but the state's conservation mandate forced the district to speed up that process and ask for more money sooner, Micalizzi said.
"Under the latest rate proposal, the basic service charge assigned to most single-family residential customers would jump to about $41 on Oct. 1 from $16.77, Micalizzi said."
California adopts strict lawn-reduction rules for drought savings
Sacramento Bee, Phillip Reese,7/15/15
"The new rules effectively limit the amount of turf grass around newly constructed homes to 25 percent of landscaped area. Under prior rules, turf grass could take up about one-third of landscaped area.
"The restrictions will apply to all homes with more than 500 square feet of landscaped area – essentially, all new, single-family, detached homes in the state. . . .
"Tim Murphy, chief executive of the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange, said the proposal would add several layers of complexity to California’s already regulatory-heavy development environment, and some of the smaller irrigation contractors may struggle to adapt. . . .
"Ed Zuckerman, president of Stockton-based Delta Bluegrass Company, said the new rules would unnecessarily kill off lawns in California – and might do the same to his and other sod farmers’ businesses. . . . 'If you like to live in Phoenix, Ariz., with gravel in your front yard and no irrigated landscape,' he said, 'that’s what some people would like to push.' . . .
"Marc Mondell, economic and community development director for the city of Rocklin, said the new regulations are too complex and will create new enforcement work for city employees. In a letter to the commission, he called some of the regulations 'very onerous to both ... agencies and the public.' " . . .