Diversification a key goal of Water Facilities Master Plan

Short Title
Diversification a key goal of Water Facilities Master Plan
Water Authority Board Considers Seawater Desalination's Role in Future Water Reliability
January 23, 2003

The San Diego County Water Authority board of directors today authorized the release of a "Notice of Preparation" for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report on the draft Water Facilities Master Plan. The PEIR will examine the issues and options related to water facilities and supplies needed to serve San Diego County through 2030.

The Water Authority has determined that the best way to ensure a reliable supply of water for the future is through the diversification of its water supply resources. The draft Water Facilities Master Plan, which has been in development for several years, will serve as the roadmap for implementing the major capital improvements needed by the Water Authority to meet its mission of providing a safe and reliable water supply through 2030. It recommends potential additional facilities and improvements to existing facilities needed to cost effectively serve water demands in the future.

"The master plan is our investment strategy for ensuring the future of water supply and facility reliability," said Bernie Rhinerson, Water Authority board chairman. "The completion of the PEIR process will provide a clear direction to the Water Authority for developing additional water resources and facilities for the San Diego region."

The Water Facilities Master Plan reviews the future water demands of the region and analyzes different alternatives to convey supplies to meet customer demands. Three specific conveyance alternatives are identified in the master plan: developing an additional supply from the west through development of seawater desalination facilities; construction of a new pipeline from the east to deliver water from the Colorado River; and construction of a new, sixth pipeline in the north to convey additional water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The California Environmental Quality Act requires that public agencies complete an environmental impact report for any projects that may cause either a direct or a reasonable foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment. Over the next several weeks, the Water Authority will hold open house meetings for community input on the Master plan followed by a scoping meeting to solicit input from the community and public agencies on what should be included in the master plan's PEIR. The PEIR is scheduled for completion and certification by the Water Authority board within 12 months.

The Water Authority board of directors today also identified seawater desalination as the best apparent method for providing a new, reliable supply of water for the San Diego region of three supply alternatives presented in master plan. The PEIR process will validate or refute that conclusion by comparing it to the other supply alternatives in the master plan.

"It appears seawater desalination will play an important role in our water supply future," said Rhinerson. "Importantly, for our $126 billion regional economy, it is also a drought-proof supply. Seawater desalination also provides many other benefits, including the provision of a new supply with price certainty, new treatment capacity, and enhanced water quality."

At its November meeting, the board approved a term sheet with Poseidon Resources Corporation that could lead to the development of a desalination facility at the Encina Power Plant in Carlsbad. If built, the Carlsbad facility would become the largest desalination project in the Western Hemisphere. The plant, which could be completed by 2008, would produce 56,000 acre-feet of treated drinking water annually, enough water to serve the annual needs of 112,000 families.

Each of the supply conveyance options presented in the master plan includes a common group of projects that would be implemented. The Water Authority will rehabilitate or replace existing pipelines prior to reaching their expected useful life. Any future constraints or bottlenecks in the conveyance system will be identified and appropriate improvements completed. The Water Authority will identify additional local opportunities to increase treated water capacity, which may include the building of a Water Authority-owned water treatment plant. Finally, the Water Authority will develop an additional 100,000 acre-feet of storage capacity.

Copies of the draft master plan in print or on CD are available by contacting the San Diego County Water Authority at (858) 522-6600. Times and locations of the community open house meetings on the master plan and the scoping meeting for community and public agency input into the PEIR will be posted on the Water Authority's website at www.sdcwa.org.

The San Diego County Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. The Water Authority works through its 23 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to almost three million county residents.

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