Over a decade ago, Southern California water officials rushed to build or expand treatment plants so they could keep up with the demand for drinkable water. That cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now demand for water has fallen dramatically. The treatment plants sit largely unused during parts of the year and officials are fighting over how to pay for some of them.
There are two kinds of water: treated water, which has been cleaned up for drinking; and raw water, which comes from a river or reservoir and is not yet fit for human consumption. Water treatment plants make the raw water drinkable.
In San Diego County alone, a dozen major treatment plants can produce up to 830 million gallons of drinking water each day.
Yet even when demand for water was highest – the dry summer months, usually – the county’s plants last year were treating only about 530 million gallons per day of water.
This winter, demand for water was so low that the San Diego County Water Authority temporarily idled a $160 million plant in San Marcos that it built less than a decade ago.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
We, all the residents of the western states, should be ashamed of ourselves for wasting such a critical natutal resource and expecting others to take care of the problem for us. Importing water, from any source, is not a valid answer to how we should live sustainably in this desert. Our wasteful ways created a water management system that overestimated the regional needs. Our choice to prioritize convenience and scenery created a water system that is overly dependent on outside sources we cannot control. This will not be the last news article written about the ramifications of thirsty humans living lavishly in the west. I'm not some extremist. I just think if we had all agreed to conserve water in the first place, we could have saved ourselves a lot of these political and financial headaches. Reasonable conservation, like switching to a drough tolerant lawn or building wastewater recyling, isn't really going to cramp anyone's style. People can still have their veggie gardens, but no one's gonna get hurt from low flow toilets. We're in this situation because our water managers responded to our uncontrollable need for more water. This is our problem, and avoiding future mistakes will take a lot of self-control regarding how we value our critical natural resources.
Mike — I agree with most of what you said, but also believe that while we should each strive to be less wasteful, the changes we can make are tiny compared to what could be accompluished if our elected Leaders spent as much time, money and energy on improving San Diego's infrastructure as they are shoving yet another $tadium down our throats.
It is hard to recycle rainwater and stop pollution from runoff when we don't even have a state of the art system to capture excessive rainfall much less recycle it. I think the reason for this is that those that control/sell water don't want any additional water added to our water supply unless they are the ones doing it and they get paid for it. If our Leaders can tell us it is important for us to conserve water, when we have the means to provide water to those that want it, why can't we tell our Leaders that it is important that they should spent more of our money doing what is best for all of us instead of what is best for getting donations from Big Sports.
It is unrealistic for them to expect us to be the ones conserving when they refuse to do the same, especially when we are the ones footing all the bills, paying their salaries and funding their retirement plans.
Maybe we should support a Recycl-$tadium project that way all of us in SD would win instead of just the Chargers, their wealthy owners and their fans.
I believe that using water is no different than using gasoline or diesel fuel, specifically nobody should waste it but nobody should tell others what constitutes WASTE. I might choose to have a green lawn but not commute, while others choose to have no lawn and spend hours commuting.
All of should strive to WASTE LESS but we should also strive to understand what is important to us may not be as important to others, especially when it comes to all our "personal usage" issues, whether it be water, gasoline, alcohol, time, sex or anything else because that is what personal freedom is all about.
RE: "the plants are part of a “combined number of financed projects that have been refunded and blended together.” The city’s pricing consultant said".
What a bunch of accounting B$ that is specifically designed to make it impossible for the public (and the media it seems) to have any kind of real oversight; which is exactly what SDG&E does. These "smoke & mirror" accounting techniques are the real reason that we have shortages (of funds not water ).
No wonder our rates have gone up while we have been busy "saving water".
Why should using water be any different than choosing how long a commute is acceptable? Imagine if everyone was told to live less than 5 miles from where they work to reduce traffic?
I'm glad that those that want a green yard can have the water to make it grow. Why should the "Powers to Be" get to cherry pick what people can and cannot do just to make certain groups more money; our Leadership is promoting for the BIGS (Water, Utilities, Oil, Developers and Sports Owners) instead of for us, that is what is making San Diego an ever more expensive to live.
You might want to look at the votes you cast for your water agency representatives. Water managers shouldn't have to be compelled by the State to prioritize conservation -- it is the cheapest way to ensure water reliability and they should do it by choice. The next cheapest alternative is recycling wastewater for potable reuse. But when the utilities invest in expensive capital projects before exhausting reasonable efforts to conserve and re-use, then ratepayers are stuck paying for the projects whether they are needed or not. At least the treatment plants can sit idle and customers save the expense of operating the facility (small comfort). But the "take or pay" contract for the desal water -- that is now not not needed in the midst of the most dramatic drought in recent history -- is inexcusable. "First Things First!" We don't have a water supply problem, we have a water management problem.
@Joe Geever I obviously disagree. You can quite readily manage your water use. Either turn on the tap, or do not. No need for government force to intervene, is there? I do not want to "conserve" by most people's definition. You are free to do otherwise. I want to grow vegetables, flowers, and a lawn, and will pay my bill as it comes due. Conservation as I think you espouse is force. Again, you can regulate your costs by individual choice, as opposed to government force. There is absolutely NOTHING inexcusable about the Carlsbad desalination plant, nor its financial arrangement. Unless you think water agency folks should be able to "crystal ball" situations and politics 15 to 20 years out. Can you?
The county is feeling the impacts of inexcusable interference by state government in regional affairs. This county never had a water shortage, due to proactive actions taken over the past 20-30 years to reduce the area's dependence on stone age processes of praying for rain and snow on the Sierra watershed. So investments were made, rates increased, planning for the future was done, satisfying the probable growth of the area and subsequent demand for water. So Moonbeam comes along, and declares an emergency where none existed. If you want to focus on responsibility, do so with state government and their idiotic and despotic disregard for individual rights and local responsibility. Also, given this state's regulatory processes, where by one recent study 40% of new housing costs are caused by regulation, the water agencies must plan some ten years or so out, It took maybe two or three years to bring Carlsbad desalination plant on line, and maybe 10-15 years to get it approved? Ridiculous, so don't blame the water agencies. Look at the votes you cast, and what those elected officials do in your behalf. If facts matter, read this website for references: http://www.watersandiego.org
@Bill Stoops If facts do matter, then I would advise you to present all facts and not just your specific biased viewpoint. The reality is that San Diego still receives around 50% of our water from the Colorado River and 30% of our water from Northern California (which is Sierra Snowpack). So in total 80% of our water supply does in fact come from "stone age processes of praying for rain and snow." You say as much on your website (see quote below).
On your website, you state: "Lake Mead supplies a significant amount of the water used in San Diego County. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Lake Mead, sees no shortage in 2016 or 2017." Despite the fact that the BLM has not formally stated that Lake Mead has a water shortage, the fact remains that Lake Mead water levels are at or near all time record lows. El Nino has done little to help improve Lake Mead water levels, and BLM is very close to declaring a shortage.
Suggesting that San Diegans not conserve water while we continue to depend on the Colorado - just because we have first water rights - is irresponsible. Conservation is in fact the cheapest way to ensure water reliability, and suggestions that San Diegans continue to waste water on thirsty grass lawns and other water hungry landscaping is simply unacceptable. In fact, the largest corporate water user in the City of San Diego is The Irvine Company. I work in an office owned by the Irvine Company near UTC. Every day I drive up and down Towne Center Drive and can't help but notice the large swathes of very green grass. We should be encouraging all users of water, including the Irvine Company, to conserve and replace water thirsty grass with drought tolerant landscaping.
With that said, I do agree that it appears we have a water agency mismanagement problem. However, I agree with Jerry Brown's emergency declaration because I firmly believe in water conservation.
"For instance, we don’t build freeways to handle traffic on Sunday morning, we build them to accommodate rush-hour traffic," said Mike Lee, a spokesman for the Water Authority.
Do restaurant owners build their dining areas big enough so that there's never a waiting list on Friday and Saturday nights? No, because they don't want any of that expensive dining area to go wasted. Yet for some reason we as taxpayers are willing to overbuild our roads, and then we wonder why we can't afford to keep them free of potholes.
You just can't make this stuff up!
Derek — We don't over build our roads, SANDAG does that for us because they (our regional Leaders) have never seen a Big Construction donation they did not like, despite the public begging for more personal mobility roadways to lessen the number of vehicles using our roads.
FYI: A few less miles of new highway lane could pay for many thousands of electric bicycles that would enable urban commuters to make the switch from using cars.