The San Diego County Water Authority’s draft water facilities master plan and Climate Action Plan were released for public review today, along with an environmental analysis of the two long-range plans.
The documents provide strategic direction through 2035 for future capital projects and responding to climate change as it relates to activities within the agency. By proposing to defer two planned projects, the Water Authority expects to reduce its anticipated capital improvement program costs by $653 million through 2025 – part of the agency’s ongoing effort to adapt to changing projections in water demand and control expenses related to providing a safe and reliable water supply. In addition, recent Water Authority investments will allow the agency to achieve the state’s goal for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
To account for the holidays, the Water Authority is extending the required 45-day period for public comment on the plans and the environmental document until Jan. 16. A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 9 at the Water Authority’s headquarters in Kearny Mesa. The Board of Directors is expected to consider adoption of the documents no later than March 2014.
“These plans will provide long-term guidance as we continue to maximize the smart investments we’ve already made to improve water supply reliability and to minimize our carbon footprint," said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority’s Board.
The centerpiece of the documents released today is the 2013 Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update. It incorporates projections for future water demands and water supplies, and it identifies the facilities needed to meet those demands. The master plan envisions near- and mid-term capital projects such as building a pump station in North County that will deliver stored water to the northern reaches of the Water Authority’s service area. It also projects adding valves to the Water Authority’s extensive pipeline network that can more efficiently isolate aqueduct sections for inspections, maintenance and repairs.
In addition, the master plan considers – but doesn’t commit to – several major long-term projects that are in early feasibility stages, such as a potential seawater desalination plant at Camp Pendleton. Each concept would have to undergo additional project-specific reviews and analysis, and receive Board direction before possibly moving forward.
When developing the 2013 master plan update, the Water Authority recognized the “new normal” of reduced water sales in the region, and a greater emphasis on water conservation and local water supply development. The document also accounted for the agency’s shift from a “building” organization to one that is becoming more focused on asset management, operations and maintenance. One result is a strategy focused on projects that increase the value and capabilities of existing facilities.
Another outcome is the recommended deferral of two previously planned projects, which would reduce the anticipated capital improvement costs for fiscal years 2014 through 2025 by $653 million. Water Authority analysis now shows that a new pipeline to bring water into the county and a new “crossover” pipeline to alleviate potential constraints in the delivery system won’t be needed before 2030.
Because major infrastructure projects typically can take more than a decade to permit, design and build, the Water Authority uses the master planning process to look far into the future at how to meet the water needs of the region’s growing economy and population. In 2003, the master plan identified large-scale regional water treatment capacity, seawater desalination, and increased reservoir storage as priorities, prompting three major construction projects that will serve the region for decades. The Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant, capable of treating 100 million gallons per day, was finished in 2008. The privately developed Carlsbad Desalination Project – which will be the largest desalination plant in the nation at 50 million gallons per day – is under construction, and the Water Authority expects to start receiving water from the plant to bolster regional supplies in 2016. Finally, the San Vicente Dam Raise is nearing completion. The project will more than double the storage capacity of San Vicente Reservoir.
In conjunction with the 2013 master plan update, the Water Authority also has released its first Climate Action Plan, a voluntary strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. That document includes baseline emissions of 9,325 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2009, and a target of 7,927 million tons in 2020 to align with state goals for a 15 percent reduction in the baseline amount.
Water Authority projections show that under a business-as-usual approach, the agency will achieve the targeted reductions because of emissions offsets it receives for pumped storage power generated at Lake Hodges since 2012. In addition, projects in the master plan will incorporate energy-efficient designs, and the Water Authority is investigating additional ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through expansion of more-efficient energy sources such as hydropower, both in-line and pumped storage.
“By aligning our climate plan with the state’s guidance under Assembly Bill 32, we have shown that the Water Authority is helping California meet its goal for reducing greenhouse gases,” said Maureen A. Stapleton, general manager of the Water Authority. “Because of investments we’ve already made in hydropower and energy efficiencies, we’ve also shown we can do our part in a cost-effective manner.”
The final element of the Water Authority’s document package under public review is a Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report that addresses both the Climate Action Plan and the 2013 master plan update. The environmental report covers potential and cumulative impacts from completing new projects and is a supplement to the 2003 Program EIR. At a program level, the report finds there are no significant impacts from implementing new projects detailed in the 2013 master plan update.
For details about the master plan and related documents, go to www.sdcwa.org/regional-water-facilities-master-plan-documents-public-comment.