Monday, April 27, 2009

Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System Wins National Civil Engineering Award

From the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE):

April 23, 2009: Turning Wastewater Into Drinking Water
Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System Wins National Civil Engineering Award

Reston, Va. – Orange County faced a serious challenge: how to continue providing water for its growing population and economy. In the past, water purchased from outside Southern California had been the answer. Realizing that the old solution wasn’t a sustainable answer, the Orange County Water and Sanitation District’s new Groundwater Replenishment System (GWR) provides a high quality, reliable water supply. In recognition of its success, the Groundwater Replenishment System has been honored with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2009 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award. Presented this evening at the 10th annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Awards Gala at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va., the OCEA award recognizes the project’s significant contributions to both the civil engineering profession and the local community.

“Sufficient water sources are not guaranteed,” said ASCE President D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE, “especially not in Southern California. The Groundwater Replenishment System is a safe, reliable option for meeting the increasing water demands of north and central Orange County, and it is an excellent example of how civil engineering can contribute to a community’s economic success, improve residents’ quality of life and protect public safety.”

The projected water demand in central and north Orange County for the year 2020 is 600,000 acre-feet (which is enough water for 1.3 million families annually) compared to current consumption of about 500,000 acre-feet per year (which is enough water for one million families annually). These projections indicate that demand will far outweigh supply. This imbalance will become even more pronounced in a drought. Included as a case study for raising the Drinking Water grade in the ASCE 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the GWR system to meets growing demands and reduces reliance on water imported from other sources.

The GWR system takes water through an advanced purification process. This purified water is of a higher quality than required by all state and federal drinking water standards and is similar to distilled water. The system uses the latest water treatment technologies, and its structures have been designed to accommodate solar power, providing a reliable, drought-proof source of pure water for the county, reducing saltwater intrusion into the groundwater basin and lowering the amount of wastewater discharged to the ocean. Water from the system will be between 35 and 75 percent cheaper than water produced by seawater desalination, and the purification process will consume about half the energy.

The GWR System provides a new drought-proof water source for northern and central Orange County, will reduce reliance on imported water, and will save additional funds in the future by improving the quality of the water in the Orange County groundwater basin. This water quality improvement takes place when the new purified water, low in minerals, mixes with existing groundwater, lowering the average mineral content. Lowering the amount of minerals in the water, or reducing water hardness will decrease maintenance costs for residents and businesses by extending the life of water heaters, boilers, cooling towers and plumbing fixtures.

The contenders for the 2009 OCEA Award included the I-35W St. Anthony’s Falls Bridge Project in Minneapolis; the H. Clay Whaley, Sr. Memorial Water Plant in St. Cloud, Fla.; the Lake Brazos Labyrinth Weir in Waco, Texas; the Montagua Bridge in LaGarrucha, Guatemala; and the Elk Creek Tunnel Bridge located between Elkton and Drain, Ore.

Established in 1960, the OCEA program recognizes projects on the basis of their contribution to the well-being of people and communities, resourcefulness in planning and design challenges, and innovation in materials and techniques. Previous winners have included the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project on the Washington, D.C. beltway, the Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit in San Francisco, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse relocation in North Carolina and the Saluda Dam Remediation project in Columbia, S.C.

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 146,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit For more information on the awards program, please contact Anthony Reed at or (703) 295-6413. ###

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poseidon as puppet master?

"Ben Hueso—City Council president, California Coastal Commission member and state Assembly candidate—really, really wants there to be a desalination plant in Carlsbad. Whenever he’s been asked about the prospect of Connecticut-based Poseidon Resources constructing a plant to turn seawater into potable water, he’s expressed his strong support for the project. He supports it so much that he’s even willing to let the company write salutary letters that he then sends under his own name.

Poseidon’s proposed plant would take in 304 million gallons a day of seawater and provide 50 million gallons a day of drinking water to the San Diego region. As threats of water rationing hang over the region like the storm clouds we wish would come, the company has received renewed support from elected officials—from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Chris Kehoe to the Carlsbad City Council. And Hueso.

The documents, obtained by CityBeat under California’s public-records law, show that on at least two occasions, Poseidon vice president Scott Maloni sent e-mail to Hueso’s chief of staff, Alonso Gonzalez—himself a candidate for City Council—drafts of letters Maloni wanted Hueso to send to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Both letters emphasized Hueso’s position as a Coastal Commissioner, and both asked the water board to vote to approve the desal plant. In both cases, Hueso sent the letters unedited."

That's an excerpt from a recent San Diego City Beat article. Click Here for the full story.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Climate Change Means Shortfalls in Colorado River Water Deliveries

Hot off the wire from UCSD/Scripps! April 20, 2009

Climate Change Means Shortfalls in Colorado River Water Deliveries

Scripps researchers find that currently scheduled water deliveries from the Colorado River are unlikely to be met if human-caused climate change reduces runoff in the region.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography/ University of California, San Diego

The Colorado River system supplies water to tens of millions of people and millions of acres of farmland, and has never experienced a delivery shortage. But if human-caused climate change continues to make the region drier, scheduled deliveries will be missed 60-90 percent of the time by the middle of this century, according to a pair of climate researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

"All water-use planning is based on the idea that the next 100 years will be like the last 100," said Scripps research marine physicist Tim Barnett, a co-author of the report. "We considered the question: Can the river deliver water at the levels currently scheduled if the climate changes as we expect it to. The answer is no."

Even under conservative climate change scenarios, Barnett and Scripps climate researcher David Pierce found that reductions in the runoff that feeds the Colorado River mean that it could short the Southwest of a half-billion cubic meters (400,000 acre feet) of water per year 40 percent of the time by 2025. (An acre foot of water is typically considered adequate to meet the annual water needs of two households.) By the later part of this century, those numbers double.

The paper, "Sustainable water deliveries from the Colorado River in a changing climate," appears in the April 20 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The analysis follows a 2008 study in which Barnett and Pierce found that Lake Mead, the reservoir on the Colorado River created by Hoover Dam, stood a 50-percent chance of going dry in the next 20 years if the climate changed and no effort was made to preserve a minimum amount of water in the reservoir. The new study assumes instead that enough water would be retained in the reservoir to supply the city of Las Vegas, and examines what delivery cuts would be required to maintain that level.

"People have talked for at least 30 years about the Colorado being oversubscribed but no one ever put a date on it or an amount. That's what we've done," said Barnett. "Without numbers like this, it's pretty hard for resource managers to know what to do."

Barnett and Pierce also point out that lakes Mead and Powell were built during and calibrated to the 20th century, which was one of the wettest in the last 1,200 years. Tree ring records show that typical Colorado River flows are substantially lower, yet 20th Century values are used in most long-term planning of the River. If the Colorado River flow reverts to its long-term average indicated by the tree rings, then currently scheduled water deliveries are even less sustainable.

Barnett and Pierce show that the biggest effects of human-induced climate change will probably be seen during dry, low-delivery years. In most years, delivery shortfalls will be small enough to be manageable through conservation and water transfers, they estimate. But during dry years there is an increasing chance of substantial shortages.

"Fortunately, we can avoid such big shortfalls if the river's users agree on a way to reduce their average water use," said Pierce. "If we could do that, the system could stay sustainable further into the future than we estimate currently, even if the climate changes."
# # #

Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

Scripps News:

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at UC San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $155 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.

UCSD News on the Web:
Scripps Contacts: Robert Monroe or Mario Aguilera 858-534-3624;

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The San Vicente Dam Raise project starts soon along with new wetlands in the TJ River Valley approved

Info from the latest SDCWA Emergency Storage Project email...

Getting Ready for Construction on San Vicente Dam Raise
San Vicente Dam
Good news for San Diego County: construction starts soon on the San Vicente Dam Raise, the last major component of the Emergency Storage Project.

The San Vicente Dam Raise project will increase the height of the existing dam by 117 feet. This will more than double the reservoir's water storage capacity. Construction is expected to begin before summer.

Lake Hodges Cofferdam Gets the Job Done
Lake Hodges Cofferdam
How do you build an inlet-outlet structure and its connecting
tunnel on the bottom of a reservoir? You use a cofferdam! The Lake Hodges Projects contractor installed a temporary cofferdam to keep the reservoir water out of the construction area. This spring, the cofferdam will be dismantled and removed - it accomplished its job.

A Closer Look at Pipe Installation
San Vicente Pipe InstallationPipe installation for the San Vicente Pipeline is well under way in the western portion of the tunnel. To date, crews have placed about 180 pipe segments in the tunnel, almost two miles long. The contractor anticipates completing pipe installation for the five miles between the West and Central shafts this spring.

Testing Equipment in the New San Vicente Pumping Facilities
Surge Control TankWith construction largely complete, over the next several months each piece of equipment in the pump station and surge control tank will undergo extensive testing to help ensure it works properly when needed. The pumping facilities will deliver water from San Vicente Reservoir to the San Vicente Pipeline and ultimately to San Diego County residents during an emergency.

Wetlands Creation in Tijuana River Valley Approved
As part of the Water Authority's commitment to protecting the environment while providing a safe, reliable water supply to the San Diego region, the board of directors certified and approved the final environmental document for the Tijuana River Valley Wetlands Mitigation Project in December 2008.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sales of Bottled New York Tap Water Embarrass Non-Mad Citizens

The Los Angeles Times points out that a lot of idiots in New York are paying $1.50 a bottle for city tap water. To our surprise, there is no law against Craig Zucker -- who started his flim-flam career selling $1 golf shots with a million-dollar prize for a hole in one -- bottling local water as "Tap'd NY" and re-selling it.
Zucker claims that he filters the water before bottling, so it will be less poisonous than the free water with which generations of citizens were hydrated before the world went mad, but other than that there's no advantage to his product except convenience. The company does encourage buyers to refill their Tap'd bottles from public sources, which is like liquor companies telling us to drink responsibly. People like author Elizabeth Royte have been trying to get New York to reduce bottled water use by installing more public drinking fountains, but the whole air-and-water-should-be-free thing is kind of out of date, and we doubt the cash-strapped city will spend money to discourage consumerism.
There are only two things that can arrest this mortifying fad: common sense -- which left us some time ago -- and the New Depression, which will probably revive the use of public fountains, and re-accustom citizens to tap water when it is served at soup kitchens.

Article from The Village Voice in NYC, check them out.