The San Juan Capistrano Groundwater Recovery Plant. File photo
The San Juan Capistrano Groundwater Recovery Plant. File photo

By Richard Gardner, Capistrano Beach

Should the city supply diesel generators for the seven production wells and also the groundwater treatment plant? It seems that this project will move forward despite the fact that the benefit received from these generators will probably never be realized.

The council pointed out that the majority of money, about $1 million, for the generators will come from a Proposition 50 grant. The logic is if we don’t use it, the money will go to Laguna Niguel or Mission Viejo. Nowhere in the staff report was the cost of operating and maintaining these generators provided. The additional operation and management costs could exceed $100,000 per year.

It is important to understand how this project got legs and why it was proposed. The major power outage of September 8, 2011 caused many utilities to review their systems to see if there were changes needed.

The staff report of November 15, 2011 set the ball in motion, but the analysis was overly conservative. The basis for reliability is a power outage lasting several days, which has never happened. Furthermore, the power outage would have to occur with a Metropolitan Water District failure to supply water for over a week. Neither of these events has ever happened, especially not simultaneously.

Finally, if the groundwater levels should drop below the well screens during a prolonged drought, the new million-dollar generators would be useless.

If the grant money was used to provide a regional recharge basin, the water levels of the San Juan basin could be improved even in times of serious climate changes.

Higher operational costs don’t always mean a more reliable water supply.

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