The San Diego County Water Authority’s multifaceted plan for diversifying the region’s water supplies is a model for other communities around the West, according to a report released Tuesday by a non-profit network of water managers, scientists and conservationists called Carpe Diem West
New Visions, Smart Choices
The Bay Area group’s latest report – New Visions, Smart Choices: Western Water Security in a Changing Climate– spotlights successful, sustainable and fiscally prudent steps 10 regions are taking to make sure they will have water for decades to come.
“San Diego’s experience demonstrates that for communities reliant on imported water from vulnerable ecosystems, diversifying their supply portfolios with an emphasis on local sustainability is the smart path forward,” said the report, which will be presented tonight at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
Across the region, according to the report, water is getting scarcer as climate change hits home, and places such as Clark Fork, Mont., Santa Fe, N.M., and
San Diego County are innovating with impressive results. “Although the news is filled with gloom-and-doom stories of climate change, there are so many stories of successful, actionable and economically smart steps being taken across the American West,” said Kimery Wiltshire, CEO of Carpe Diem West.
The San Diego County Water Authority is completing a $3.6 billion capital improvement program to ensure adequate water treatment and storage capacity and enhance the movement of water around the county. The initiative includes the nation’s tallest dam raise – at San Vicente Dam – and the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant in north San Diego County, one of the largest advanced submerged membrane treatment facilities in the world.
In November, the Water Authority signed a 30-year contract with Poseidon Resources that launched construction of the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. It’s expected to produce water in 2016. A 10-mile-long, 54-inch diameter pipe is being built in North County to deliver desalinated water to the regional supply system.
“Every ratepayer in our region has invested in this unparalleled effort to enhance water reliability, and it’s gratifying to be recognized,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “I hope our approach inspires communities not only across the West but around the world to think creatively about securing their water supplies.”
The Water Authority’s diversification strategy started taking shape in 1991, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California slashed deliveries to the San Diego region. At the time, the Water Authority relied on MWD for up to 95 percent of its supplies, and business leaders called for a new approach to water security.
Over the past two decades, the Water Authority has developed innovative new sources through a water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, canal lining projects and other methods. Today, the Water Authority buys less than half of its water from MWD, and that percentage will continue to shrink as sources such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project come online.