Jan 31 2014
From all outward appearances, the underlying policy of the San Diego County Water Authority is found in the Bible stated in Exodus 16:4, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from Heaven.”
Why else would SDCWA be silent on Indirect Potable Recycling/Direct Potable Recycling (IPR/DPR) initiatives, putting storage and conservation front and center? My Dad always said, “Don’t listen to what people say they will do, watch what they do.” No problem with conservation and storage, especially when there is a reliable water supply for San Diego. But despite the calming words from SDCWA that we are okay for 2014 and that transfers of Colorado River water from Imperial Valley farmers ( IID transfer) is “reliable”, we import 85% of our water. It’s dirty water, not fit to drink. We clean it up, use it once and dump it out through the Pt. Loma outfall about three miles out in the Pacific Ocean.
Looking to the future for San Diego, people must conserve (good) and the system must store (also good) as much water as is available, but the last phrase “as is available” is key. Let’s say the drought drags on for ten years. Possible? Yes. Probable? Also yes. We are in the dry cycle century. About every hundred years, as history tells us, there is a wet century followed by a dry century. Now the weather gods don’t follow the Gregorian calendar, as evidenced by the fact the Colorado River flows were the highest they have ever been recorded in the first part of the twentieth century (the stats used to divide up the flows between the seven states). So perhaps the “dry century” started around 1950 or so and could last until (give or take) 2050, thirty-six years from now. For the first time ever, the US Bureau of Reclamation has slashed the amount of Colorado River water delivered downstream.
The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, fighting among themselves. Saving them from starvation was “manna from Heaven”, that is similar to the water agencies fighting forty years among themselves in this desert we call Southern California. The SDCWA needs to take another look at conservation and storage as the primary and driving public water policy. Recycling using DPR/IPR will take some heavy lifting to get done. The State Health Department needs political clout to do its work. Current regulations do not suffice to certify DPR/IPR facilities. Legislative action is necessary. And funding.
But where does the money come from? Certainly not from Heaven. It has to come from the users, and the only way to provide the funds to build the infrastructure is by raising price of water to the users. Political dynamite? Certainly, but consider how many political jobs will be vacant when the toilets don’t flush and the faucets are dry.
Think about it! “Whilst we deliberate, it becomes too late”. While I was writing this blog, KUSI -TV announced the State Water Project has shutoff deliveries to Southern California to perserve the water for Northern CA.
Milton N. Burgess, P. E., FASPE
Author of “Water Shock, The Day Southern California Went Dry”