The San Diego County Water Authority board adopted the 2007 San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management Plan and authorized the County Water Authority’s general manager to submit a grant application for $25 million to the State of California.
Other than two CWA board members who abstained due to potential conflicts of interest, all CWA board members present at the October 24 meeting voted to support the IRWMP and the grant application.
The grant application will include requests to fund part of the Fallbrook Public Utility District’s Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project and the Mission Resource Conservation District’s Northern San Diego County Invasive Non-Native Species Control Program.
“This is a milestone for the county,” said Ken Weinberg, the CWA’s Director of Water Resources. “This is the first-ever Integrated Regional Water Management Plan in San Diego County.”
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 authorizes up to $500 million for 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 27 representatives from water management, business, academia, and other sectors.
“It’s not just a Water Authority effort. It truly was a regional effort,” Weinberg said. “It was years in the making.”
In July 2007 the CWA board authorized the submittal of the San Diego region’s application for the second round of funding. That funding cycle will allocate $64.5 million in projects grants with a cap of $25 million per region.
Due to a regional distribution requirement in Proposition 50, at least $43.5 million will be awarded to regions in Southern California, which is defined as eight counties including San Diego County.
After the CWA submitted the grant application, the state Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board accepted five Southern California grant applications and twelve Northern California applications for review, and some of those applicants will be invited to submit a Step 2 application.
The final Step 2 applicant list is expected to be issued November 21, and the Step 2 application deadline is currently January 14. The state will have a public comment period on the draft Step 2 funding recommendations and is expected to announce the grant awards in May 2008.
A nine-member workgroup reviewed 51 projects, along with Regional Advisory Committee input, in detail before proposing a package of 25 projects and a $25 million funding request. “All of the projects offer multiple benefits to the region,” said CWA principal imported water specialist Mark Stadler.
The package contains proposals from 14 different proponents (in addition to public agencies, a handful of foundations and conservancies are also serving as project leads). The CWA itself has three projects on the list: an integrated landscape conservation effort, an agricultural water use efficiency program, and recycled water retrofit assistance. The three CWA projects would total $2.95 million in grants if full funding is allocated.
The grant application seeks $2.5 million for the Santa Margarita Conjunctive Use Project, which has a total estimated cost of $60 million. The project would provide for enhanced recharge and recovery from the groundwater basin on Camp Pendleton which would provide a water supply for both Camp Pendleton and FPUD.
The project would also include a seawater intrusion barrier which would use recycled water and a distribution system to deliver water both to FPUD and to the CWA aqueduct system. The management of the groundwater basins would provide approximately 6,500 acre feet per year of new supply from the Santa Margarita River, and 1,380 acres of sensitive habitat along the river would be preserved as part of the project.
The Mission Resource Conservation District grant would be for $1 million if fully funded. The invasive species control program has a total estimated cost of $9.64 million and seeks to eradicate invasive non-native plant species. The program would protect and enhance natural habitat in the San Juan, Santa Margarita, San Luis Rey, Carlsbad, and San Dieguito watersheds, and the elimination of invasive species with high water consumption would conserve water resources by increasing available groundwater.
The reduction of flood risk and flood damage would also protect water delivery and storage systems and would improve water quality by reducing erosion, fire risk, and non-point source pollution. The project would treat and revegetate 505 acres of invasive non-native plant species.
The CWA’s integrated landscape conservation effort would include a Web-driven water budget program and landscape measurement tool which would enable the CWA to measure all landscaped areas throughout the county and set a measurable conservation target for the region.
The program would also include communication of water use targets, demonstrations of financial viability, incentives for change, and promotion of low water use landscapes. The grant application requests $1,631,508 of the total $8,450,000 estimated cost.
The CWA’s agricultural efficiency program would save between 1,500 and 3,000 acre feet per year. The CWA and its contractors work with farmers to provide agricultural audits, although the demand for audits exceeds the CWA’s available funding. The audits have improved efficiency by an average of 13 percent without compromising crops or production. The grant request seeks $390,000 while the total project cost is estimated at $520,000.
The CWA’s recycled water retrofit assistance program has a total estimated cost of $1.6 million, and the grant application seeks $800,000. That program would offer direct financial assistance to homeowners’ associations, public agencies, and other customer types to facilitate the retrofitting of suitable water sites from potable to recycled water. The CWA has a goal of recycled water producing five percent of the region’s water demand by 2011.