San Diego, March 26, 2014- The San Diego County Water Authority has a chance on Thursday to update its regional water supply plan to improve conservation marks and reduce infrastructure costs. But it will severely miss the mark, say members of San Diego Bay Council, a long-time coalition of local environmental groups who would like to see the Water Authority prioritize water conservation and water recycling efforts.
Officially called the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, this Master Plan explores the region’s needs for and options to address water supply through 2035. The Water Authority will hear final public comment on its draft plan this Thursday, and, unfortunately, say members of San Diego Bay Council, the board is expected to approve it.
“Because of the realities of scarce water sources, the Water Authority must prioritize conservation and recycling as primary components of a long-range and forward-thinking water supply system,” says Matt O’Malley, Waterkeeper for San Diego Coastkeeper. “As is, this Master Plan fails to do so, and, as a consequence, San Diegans and the environment stand to lose a great deal.”
The Water Authority’s plan prioritizes new water sources that are both energy-intense and environmentally damaging; namely increased imported water, conveyance and additional desalination plants.
“Our environmental and financial security as a region is tied closely to our ability to be smart and savvy about our water use and sourcing,” said Julia Chunn-Heer, San Diego County policy manager for Surfrider Foundation. “We want the Water Authority to incorporate aggressive conservation targets to significantly reduce the need for costly infrastructure and to become an active partner in large-scale water recycling projects across the region.”
As one example, the San Diego Bay Council points to the City of San Diego’s water reuse project that could supply up to 40 percent of San Diego’s water needs. As active participants in the Water Authority’s planning process since early 2013, San Diego Bay Council says it has asked the Water Authority to prioritize large-scale water recycling because it will reduce infrastructure costs, use energy more efficiently and cause less environmental harm. “The Water Authority’s narrow water supply plan will lock this region into expensive, energy intensive options,” said Livia Borak, legal advisor for Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation. “We want to see the Water Authority pick the low hanging fruit—large-scale water reuse—and stretch its conservation beyond state-mandated minimums. This will set a new water supply standard for regions across the nation.”
In addition to the Master Plan, the Water Authority also issued a draft of and is expected to vote on its accompanying Climate Action Plan. According to San Diego Bay Council, this accompanying document fail to address climate change because it does not consider the
massive energy consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions of the planned Carlsbad desalination plant and imported water sources. Coalition groups are disappointed that while the Water Authority’s Master Plan will double down on desalination—the most energy intensive water supply option— its Climate Action Plan further ensures the Water Authority will fail to take virtually any action to address its increasing contribution to climate change.
“Every greenhouse gas emitting sector must support our state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets – this plan fails,” says Dave Grubb, chair of the North County Coastal Group.
Members of San Diego Bay Council will present public comment on the Master Plan and Climate Action Plan at the Water Authority’s meeting Thursday, March 24, starting at 9 a.m. The public meeting is at the Water Authority’s office at 4677 Overland Avenue.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO BAY COUNCIL: San Diego Bay Council is a coalition of local nonprofit organizations dedicated to the protection and restoration of regional coastal waters and related environmental issues in the San Diego region. Member organizations representing numerous San Diegans, act through community involvement, regulatory participation, and legal action to ensure the protection and restoration of San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and the region’s inland and coastal waters.