By John Perry, San Juan Capistrano
Only four months into the new fiscal year, the city has been forced to adjust the budgeted output of the Groundwater Recovery Plant from 4,545 acre feet for fiscal year 2012-2013 to 4,000 acre feet because of lower than expected water production.
The reduction in the GWRP output will have serious budget implications that will cost the city $668,715 in lost revenue and unbudgeted expenditures during the fiscal year. First, the city will lose the Metropolitan Water District subsidy of $250 per a.f. for the 545 a.f. that the GWRP will not produce. This amounts to a reduction of $136,250 in budgeted revenue. Second, the city will have to purchase an additional 545 a.f. of imported water from the MWD at a cost of $977 per a.f. which will impact the budget with an additional expense of $532,465. The total impact to the 2012-2013 budget will be $668,715.
So, who will have to pay for this miscalculation? It will be you, the taxpayer through your water rates. I am sure the City Treasurer will push some funding around to cover the shortfall so no one will notice. Unless you take time to read the entire multitude of incomprehensible financial reports presented in the council agenda, you would never know the difference.
At the Utilities Commission meeting of November 13, 2012, Keith Van Der Maaten, director of the Utilities Department, stated, “the GWRP production loss was caused by the failure of the greensand filtration system.” He went on to say that the filters need to be rebuilt again before the output can be increased.
For eight of the nine years the GWRP has been in operation we have heard the same story over and over again: “As soon as we get this problem solved, the plant will produce over 5 million gallons per day.” As soon as one problem is fixed another pops up. Maintenance costs continue to skyrocket while the GWRP continues to underperform, so we have to import more MWD water to meet the city’s needs.
It all costs money—our money. The city has none because the Utility Department still has a multimillion-dollar deficit.