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By Larry Kramer, Mayor Pro Tem of San Juan Capistrano
In a recent article in Community Common Sense, Councilman Roy Byrnes proposes “regionalizing the Ground Water Recovery Plant because the GWRP is more expensive and less reliable than MWD water.”
Sounds good but not cost effective and solves absolutely none of the problems brought up by Mr. Byrnes. He gets some “facts” wrong and overlooks the major reason why the GWRP was built.
We have not gotten water from MWD for 100 years. No water was imported into San Juan Capistrano until 1964. That is about 50 years, not 100. There are four people running the GWRP, not 21. The cost of GWRP water is not more expensive than imported water; it is about the same cost as for imported water. The city states GWRP water is actually cheaper. MWD water has increased 5 percent every year in recent history and is projected by MWD to continue to increase at that rate. Water from the GWRP has gotten cheaper and is stabilizing.
The primary purpose of the GWRP is to provide water to residents whenever water from MWD is interrupted. When MWD required us to have seven days’ supply of water, the city, in 2001, did a study of how to provide at least a week of water if imported water is interrupted. The alternative to the GWRP was to build three or four storage tanks around the city on the hills. That alternative was estimated to cost $40-60 million, which is a lot more than the cost of the GWRP.
With the GWRP and our current storage capability, seven days of water is available without importing any water. MWD routinely interrupts our supply of water for their maintenance every year and there is real concern that an earthquake could cause a long-term interruption of imported water.
Byrnes proposes letting the San Juan Basin Authority take over the GWRP. SJBA is a shell organization with no permanent staff and no management nor operational experience. It does studies and plans for management of the basin. A joint powers agreement with the SJBA would have to be developed and a staff hired to manage it. Creating another level of management would not result in any cost savings. New organizations have a way of taking on a life (and costs) of their own.
In addition, while we have some interconnections with the surrounding communities, we would need major structural changes to send and meter water to the other agencies. Piping, pumping and metering changes would be needed at additional cost.
So “regionalizing” the GWRP would actually increase the cost of water: cost for construction, operation and maintenance of new storage tanks; costs of new operation and management joint company; and costs of new piping, pumps and metering for interconnections of four water companies.
Councilman Byrnes’ proposal would actually increase the cost of water while reducing the reliability of water supply to San Juan Capistrano residents.
San Juan Capistrano is the only city in south Orange County with a significant long-term local supply of water. You should take pride in having this major asset. We should be proud of former councilmen and city officials who had the foresight to plan ahead.
Larry Kramer is an 11-year resident of San Juan Capistrano. He was elected to city council in 2010 and served one year as mayor and is beginning his second as mayor pro tem. He is also a member of the Open Space Foundation and member and former president of the Rotary Club.
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