Collaboration, Transparency, Analysis Keys to Public Service
The South Coast Water District Board of Directors held a meeting recently at which a comprehensive update was provided by our general manager and the consultant team tasked with analyzing the technological and economic viability of the proposed Doheny Desalination Project. This facility, if it becomes reality, would be located on property owned by SCWD and built in phases, with the first phase yielding five million gallons per day of potable water, which would meet demand for roughly 35,000 residents and 1,000 businesses in our service territory, as well as the two million-plus annual visitors to the area.
Much was made in media reports and social media posts of the revised cost estimates presented at this meeting. Our consultants shared with the SCWD Board that the timing of construction and other factors combined to increase the estimated cost to ratepayers by several dollars per month.
The SCWD Board has, from Day 1, approached the Doheny Desal Project in a completely open, transparent and iterative manner. The proposed slant well technology has been roundly applauded by the environmental community, but we are mindful that this technology has not yet been widely deployed here in the U.S. and as such we continue to ask questions regarding its efficacy here in Dana Point.
Further, we have always been stalwart stewards of our obligation to our ratepayers and the byproduct and impacts of any financial commitment made by SCWD. Our most recent meeting, and upcoming workshops and other meetings where this project is discussed, are absolutely the most appropriate forums for board members to ask questions and raise any concerns they may have about the project and if it is the best solution for our constituents. As President of the Board, I applaud each of my fellow Directors for the thoughtful and diligent approach they have brought to this extremely important subject.
It is important to remember that South Coast Water District, like our fellow agencies in South Orange County, does not sit on the Orange County groundwater basin and as such is almost entirely reliant on water imported from northern California and the Colorado River. The cost of this imported water has increased and will continue to increase. As a District, we absolutely must examine any and all potential projects that can enhance our reliability and self-sufficiency to prepare ourselves for earthquakes, wildfires or other natural disasters that could greatly reduce or eliminate imported water for weeks or months. Loss of water supply of this magnitude would cause extreme stress to our residential community, along with significant and lasting economic impacts to our businesses and resorts.
We invite and encourage SCWD ratepayers and members of the public to participate in the dialogue and closely monitor our progress as we continue to examine not only the Doheny Desalination Project but other regional water projects that, individually or cumulatively, can benefit our residents.
William Green is President of the South Coast Water District. He has a degree in civil engineering. He is previously a California Regional Water Quality Control Board Member (San Diego), Senior Vice-President of RBF/Michael Baker International (Engineering Firm) and Past President of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).