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Friday, May 4, 2007 | Rob Davis‘ story, “‘Perfect Storm’ Brewing for San Diego’s Water Supply” is an insightful article that clearly presents the challenges our region faces in securing a reliable supply of drinking water.

Droughts and other threats to our water supply are not new to San Diego. For decades, our region has relied heavily on imported water, with almost 95 percent of our total supply coming from the Colorado River and the Sierra Nevada. Because the majority of our water is imported and out of our immediate control, San Diego’s public water agencies have been required to plan for unanticipated service cuts and drought scenarios so that we can protect public health and the economy.

Over the years, local public water agencies have responded to water supply challenges by increasing conservation and recycling efforts. Collectively, San Diego’s local and regional water conservation programs will reduce the region’s reliance on imported water by more than 100,000 AFY by 2025. This is a good start, and conservation efforts are important; however, those of us responsible for providing the public with drinking water know that conservation and reclamation alone are not adequate. We must pursue new supplies of water that are drought-proof and locally-controlled.

With the Pacific Ocean at our door step, one option for a new water supply is seawater desalination. State, regional, and local water officials all have confirmed through approved planning documents that immediate and pressing water needs cannot be accomplished without some investment in seawater desalination. Specific to San Diego, the San Diego County Water Authority’s Urban Water Management Plan identified a need for 56,000 acre-feet/year of seawater desalination by 2011.

The good news is that desalination is in San Diego’s immediate future. Poseidon Resources, a private-sector water infrastructure specialist, has entered into a public-private partnership with the city of Carlsbad to build a desalination plant to supply 10 percent of the region’s water supply needs at no risk to taxpayers. The importance of this project to the future of our region can not be understated.

Four San Diego County public water agencies — Carlsbad Municipal Water District, Valley Center Municipal Water District, Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District and Sweetwater Authority — have entered into long-term water-purchase agreements with Poseidon Resources to receive water from the Carlsbad desalination plant. Collectively, these agencies represent nearly 70 percent of the plant’s 50-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) or 56,000-acre-feet/year capacity. Other public water agencies, including the Vallecitos Water District and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District are in discussions to purchase the desalination plant’s remaining capacity. While we each have unique reasons for securing water from the Carlsbad plant, we share the common goal of improving water supply reliability in the San Diego region through reduced dependence on imported water.

The Carlsbad desalination plant needs a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission before it can be built. After almost 10 years of planning and study, the plant is expected to have its Coastal Commission hearing later this year. With the end in sight, we encourage all of San Diego’s public and private sector leaders to join us in support of the Carlsbad desalination plant. This is one instance when it comes to water supply where the future is in our hands.

— GARY ARANT, MITCH DION, DENNIS BOSTAD, WILLIAM RUCKER and KIMBERLY A. THORNER

Gary Arant is the general manager for the Valley Center Municipal Water District. Mitch Dion is the general manager for the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District. Dennis Bostad is the general manager for the Sweetwater Authority. William Rucker is the general manager for the Vallecitos Water District. Kimberly A. Thorner, Esq. is the general manager for the Olivenhain Municipal Water District

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