The San Diego County Water Authority will apply for $15,075,025 of 2014 Integrated Regional Water Management drought implementation grants, including a $795,160 grant for the Fallbrook Public Utility District to expand its recycled water system to serve additional plant nurseries.
The SDCWA board vote June 26 was unanimous other than the abstentions of two CWA board members who abstained from the vote benefiting their districts.
FPUD general manager Brian Brady and Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District board member James Murtland avoided potential conflict of interest situations through their votes to abstain.
“We’re very pleased that we were included in the seven projects,” Brady said.
In November 2002, the state’s voters approved Proposition 50, which authorized the spending of $3.4 billion for projects involving fresh water and coastal resources. Chapter 8 of Proposition 50 authorized up to $500 million of Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning and implementation grants.
Following the passage of Proposition 50, the CWA board authorized the agency’s general manager to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego to form a regional water management group (RWMG) which would lead the IRWM effort in the San Diego region. The CWA was designated as the lead agency of the RWMG, which also organized a Regional Advisory Committee with 28 voting members and six non-voting advisory members from water management, business, academia, and other sectors.
The IRWM plan establishes regional goals and objectives oriented towards improving the reliability of local water supplies and protecting and enhancing natural resources. The plan also describes how projects are to be selected for inclusion in grant applications.
The initial San Diego IRWM plan was adopted by the CWA board in 2007 and approved by the state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) in 2009. The approval of the IRWM plan made the San Diego region eligible for state IRWM grant funding. The CWA board adopted an update of the IRWM plan in September 2013; the update which was approved earlier this year by DWR incorporated new information and new state requirements.
Although the IRWM plan was pending in 2008, DWR awarded 19 Proposition 50 grants totaling $25 million to the CWA. In November 2006 the state’s voters passed Proposition 84, which authorized $1 billion for integrated water management programs including $91 million to the San Diego hydrologic region.
The first round of Proposition 84 grants was awarded in 2011 and included $7.9 million for 11 San Diego projects, and the second round of grants will being $10.3 million to San Diego County for seven projects once agreement documents are finalized. The grants are administered by the CWA, which has contracts with the sponsoring agencies or organizations for the reimbursement of the stipulated work.
On Jan. 17, 2014, Governor Brown proclaimed a state of emergency due to the drought. On March 1, Governor Brown signed legislation which directed DWR to expedite $200 million of IRWM funding – comprising 44 percent of the remaining Proposition 84 money – to support projects which provide immediate regional drought preparedness, increase local water supply reliability and the delivery of safe drinking water, assist in the implementation of conservation programs which are not cost-effective locally, or reduce water quality or ecosystem conflicts caused by the drought.
DWR released its project selection package and application schedule June 2 and established an accelerated submission schedule with a July 21 application deadline.
“The funding is definitely going to go to regions that have had the greatest drought impacts,” said CWA principal water resources specialist Mark Stadler.
Ironically, more prepared regions including San Diego County may be at a disadvantage due to less severe drought impacts. However, the submittal package requires applicants to describe water management impacts caused by this year’s drought and any anticipated or projected impacts if dry conditions continue into 2015, and applicants are also required to detail mandatory or voluntary conservation measures or restrictions implemented due to the 2014 drought as well as any such measures which are anticipated if dry conditions continue into next year. DWR’s scoring system gives those two sections up to 10 points out of 18 total points.
“We will definitely emphasize the impacts to the region if the drought continues,” Stadler said.
San Diego County’s RWMG and Regional Advisory Committee organized a workgroup of eight technical experts to review projects which were submitted by local sponsors. The workgroup met four times in May and developed a package of seven projects based on criteria from the IRWM plan and the DWR package. On June 4, the Regional Advisory Committee voted unanimously to approve the recommended list of projects.
The total estimated cost of the seven projects is $60,233,009. “These grant funds would leverage a lot more money than we would receive from the state,” Stadler said.
The FPUD project is expected to add 644 acre-feet per year of recycled water use, reducing potable demand by that amount while also reducing FPUD’s treated water discharge.
“Right now FPUD produces about 2,000 acre-feet of recycled water and we sell about six to seven hundred acre feet per year because of the restrictions on our piping system to get to the customers,” Brady said. “What this grant money would do is match other construction dollars to extend our system and essentially double our reclaimed water sales.”
Most of FPUD’s 25 recycled water customers are large nurseries. “This would extend the system to other large nursery operations,” Brady said.
The nurseries would be able to purchase recycled water, which FPUD sells at 80 percent of the rate for potable water, and the increased reclaimed water sales will also benefit the district itself in terms of revenue and reduced potable water demand. “This helps to offset the cost of producing the recycled water,” Brady said. “It offsets potable water requirements.”
DWR expects to release its draft list of recommended grant recipients in September. A public comment period will follow with the final grant award list being released approximately one month later.