By Wayne Rayfield and Rick Erkeneff, South Coast Water District Directors
We do not share—nor does the data support—the pessimism expressed by Mayor Olvera in his most recent “guest opinion” column regarding conservation’s role in reducing water use.
From 1990 through 2014 Orange County’s population grew by 705,982 people (22.5 percent) while in the same period potable water use declined by 35,103 acre feet per year (-6 percent). This remarkable result was achieved through a combination of conservation and increased water use efficiency
Locally, one has only to look around at the businesses and residences in our community to see what is being done. In December we asked people to restrict outdoor irrigation to one day a week; since then potable water use in our service area has dropped by 10 percent. People are voluntarily replacing thirsty lawns with California native plants; HOAs are actively engaged in converting from potable to recycled water for irrigation. Resorts like the Montage, Ritz-Carlton, and St. Regis are implementing water-saving actions inside and out and eliminating tens of thousands of square feet of turf while also using more reclaimed water. These steps and others are showing positive results and many remain “works in progress.” We don’t mean to suggest that conservation is the only solution but it is a vital arrow in our quiver to combat the drought.
For the sake of historical accuracy we would like to fill in some gaps and correct a misconception or two in the Mayor’s helpful recount of the history of water in Southern California.
The column refers to the formation of Tri-Cities Water District as setting the stage for the formation of the Capistrano Beach (County) Water District. Actually, that District was formed in 1948, predating the May 12, 1959 creation of Tri-Cities. The Tri-Cities pipelines were instrumental in the growth of south Orange County between 1960 and 1990.
Further, the statement that Tri-Cities was dissolved in 1997 and became part of the South Coast Water District is inaccurate. In 1994, on the heels of the Orange County bankruptcy, the Orange County Grand Jury recommended that Tri-Cities and several other water districts be consolidated. Tri Cities dissolved in 1999, and became a new Joint Powers Authority known as the Joint Regional Water Supply System (JRWSS). JRWSS is owned by seven member agencies including the cities of San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano and five water agencies—El Toro, Irvine Ranch, Moulton Niguel, South Coast and San Diego County Water Authority (for Camp Pendleton, San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station and San Onofre State Park). JRWSS facilities include 30 miles of transmission mains (including a 5-foot diameter line in Irvine) that bring imported water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to almost 250,000 people in our area and two reservoirs in San Clemente with a capacity of 60 million gallons. South Coast crews under contract with the JRWSS operate the facilities.
As mentioned in the column, South Coast Water District was created in 1932. It was formed as a county water district to serve a relatively undeveloped area along the south Orange County coast including the areas of Three Arch Bay and Capistrano-by-the Sea. In 1976 the South Laguna Sanitary District and South Coast consolidated and South Coast then began providing wastewater conveyance. In 1999, Capistrano Beach Water District, Dana Point Sanitation District and South Coast consolidated into the South Coast Water District we know today. In 2008, South Coast began augmenting its water supply with a well in the San Juan Creek Basin. Over time that well has produced up to 10 percent of the District’s potable water supply. Because of the drought-induced stress in the basin, the District voluntarily shut down this well in September of 2014. The District is actively seeking additional ways to increase our local water supply; one such initiate is ocean water desalination.
We would like to thank the residents, businesses and cities in our service area for steps already taken and now underway to save our precious water. Conservation is working.
Remember that starting June 1 we all must reduce potable water consumption by 24 percent compared to 2013 usage, per state requirements. (Recycled water is exempt.) SCWD stands ready to help. For questions or suggestions, contact Rayfield at 949.922.0744 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Erkeneff at 949.231.9673 (email@example.com) or SCWD at 949.499.4555, www.scwd.org.