• Small Water Projects for Pacific Grove

    The State Water Resources Control Board has imposed, through a cease-and-desist order, a January 1, 2017 limit on CalAm’s ability to draw water from the Carmel River. Three water desalination projects have been proposed to replace that water. The City is working, both independently as well as part of the six-city joint powers authority, to bring desalination on line before the “water cliff” is imposed by the water board in four years from now.

    Unfortunately, the independent analysis of the three desalination project proposals recently completed for the six-city Water Authority has cast serious doubt that any of the desal projects can be completed on time. (This study is available on the Water Authority’s web site at http://www.mprwa.org/). Unless an extension can be obtained, that would mean severe water reduction limitations would be imposed. The exact allocation of those limitations has yet to be determined, but would seriously impact hotels, restaurants, and other drivers of our local economy. In addition, use of potable water to irrigate the City’s Golf Links, parks, and El Carmelo Cemetery, as well as landscaping other public facilities such as the City’s and Pacific Grove Unified School District’s ball fields would almost certainly be curtailed.

    Impact on the Golf Links would be particularly damaging, and costly. The Pacific Grove Golf Links is one of only two courses on the peninsula (along with Del Monte) that uses potable water. If the State Water Resources Control Board (WRCB) were to restrict or prohibit the use of potable water for the Links, then the tees, greens, and fairways would almost immediately deteriorate, ending play, and causing damage that would cost millions of dollars to reverse (assuming water at some point in the future again became available).

    As a result, the City has proposed three reclaimed water projects to Cal-Am and the California Public Utilities Commission. These three projects would partially treat a variable mixture of waste water, storm water, and dry weather flows, creating nonpotable water that is ideal for irrigation, toilet flushes, and the like. All three projects are complementary to the desal projects, the ground water recharge project currently under consideration by the Monterey Regional Pollution Control Agency, and the seasonal storage projects currently proposed for expansion by the Water District. (The City’s full proposal for the three projects is available at

    The technologies that would be used for the partial water treatment are proven, straightforward, and relatively inexpensive. They would re-use existing water and, in comparison to desal technologies, would use relatively little electrical power. The permitting for the projects would be less challenging that than being faced by the desal projects. Thus, the three projects would be likely to engender little controversy and fewer risks of delay than the desal proposals. As a result, they could be completed on time, making a meaningful contribution to bringing CalAm into compliance with the State Water Resources Control Board Cease and Desist Order.

    The projected cost of the water produced by the three projects, in total, is less than the projected cost from any of the three desal projects, and this cost would be further offset by the savings in wastewater treatment costs. The resulting reduction of storm water and dry weather flows would also assist the City in meeting requirements also recently imposed by the water control board on water entering the Bay (since the City’s coastline is considered an “area of special biological significance”).

    Each of these projects could provide at least 100 to 125 acre-feet per year (afy) of reclaimed water and potentially up to 500 afy per project. The reclaimed water produced could displace the 100 afy to 125 afy of potable water currently used for landscape irrigation at the Golf Links and adjacent Cemetery, as well as irrigation water used at other public facilities.

    The potential capacity of the projects is not dependent primarily upon the amount of existing wastewater and surface water runoff available to reclaim in the area, but rather upon the amount of the existing potable water usage that can be economically displaced by reclaimed water from these three projects.

    The City is open to discussion of any form of public-private partnership for ownership, financing, construction, and operation of these three projects that best meets the needs of our residents and businesses, the broader public interests of Monterey Peninsula communities, and is most cost effective for water and wastewater ratepayers. The City is currently urging the Commission to include consideration of the three reclaimed water projects in the Commission’s environmental review as a supplement or alternative to CalAm’s proposed project and is further urging the Commission to consider exercising its authority to facilitate completion of the projects.

    This map shows conceptual plans for one of the City’s three proposed reclaimed water projects.


    posted to Cedar Street Times on November 23, 2012

    Topics: Water


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