Most San Diegans now recognize that with nearly 3 million people residing in a region with only enough rainfall to support 50,000, creative solutions to conserve and augment our local water supply are needed. Continuing to rely almost solely on importing water from the Colorado River is no longer a viable option. Once comprising 95 percent of our water portfolio, the San Diego County Water Authority has announced a goal of 60 percent imported water by 2030.
Almost everyone agrees that our first regional strategy must be conservation. While strides have been made over the past 15 years, we must make conservation a regional priority, not just a buzz-word. After conservation, though, there is little agreement as to the best strategies to ensure water security. Or is there?
Two options have gained the most notoriety – indirect potable reuse (IPR) and desalination. While the latter seems to enjoy the most public support, many members off the environmental community (San Diego Coastkeeper, The Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club and Audubon Society), the business community (Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, BIOCOM) and nearly a dozen cities and water districts have backed reservoir augmentation, a form of IPR. Why the disconnect?
When I first became involved in this issue through settlement negotiations with the city of San Diego after Coastkeeper, Surfrider and Sierra Club sued over the Pt. Loma Wastewater Facility, my sole focus was reaching a settlement that would mandate the city coming up to secondary sewage treatment. While this is still a goal, two-years of exhaustive settlement negotiations led me to the conclusion that reservoir augmentation is a critical component of ensuring a diversified and secure regional water supply, protecting our local economy and public health, and reducing pollution that currently flows into our ocean and impacts our marine environment.
Check back later to hear how I reached that conclusion…
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