By Melissa Kaffen, San Juan Capistrano
Given that we are experiencing a record statewide drought, our City Council majority’s decision to “go it alone” and build the Groundwater Recovery Plant appears positively clairvoyant, until you take a closer look.
According to Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board, “We need to conserve what little we have to use later in the year, or even in future years.”
What the government agencies, including our council majority (Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor) failed to consider is the following alarm raised by water experts like Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program for the Pacific Institute, a water policy think tank in Oakland.
“The challenge is that in the last drought, we drew down groundwater resources and never allowed them to recover,” Cooley said. “We’re seeing long term, ongoing declining groundwater (aquifers) levels, and that’s a major problem.”
Aquifers are natural underground reservoirs that play an important role in regulating the osmotic pressure of the arable land mass, especially in coastal areas. Long-term depletion of ground water can cause both the size and storage capacity of these underground reservoirs to permanently shrink, which further complicates the problem of salt water intrusion from lowered osmotic pressure in the coast land masses—In other words, the ultimate definition of a costly vicious cycle.
Our current water crisis should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever driven the 241 toll road, one of the most beautiful drives through some very ancient and arid topography. San Juan residents are ahead of the learning curve in experiencing firsthand the costly effects of living in an arid part of the most agriculturally productive and populous state in America.
As Southern California’s population grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile the water needs of homeowners with those of farmers. It now appears that the exorbitant cost of water in our village will do what no elected official has ever had the courage or brains to do: limit population growth and news household demand for water by limiting massive, unsustainable future land development projects.
How long will it before we in San Juan pay triple the price to use 75 percent less water because our council majority chose to “go it alone,” paying all the build, maintenance and repair costs of a chronically malfunctioning groundwater plant—that just so happens to also help mitigate the water demands of the next massive new home project to our east?
Watch what happens to property values when people find out they can’t afford to take a bath in San Juan due to the spiraling costs of a faulty and perhaps unsustainable local groundwater recovery plant.