By John Perry
A draft report prepared for the San Juan Basin Authority (SJBA) exposes new problems with our water supply. The draft report, prepared by Wildermuth Environmental Associates, indicates far less water in the basin than previously reported. Previous studies estimated about 40,000 acre feet of water in the basin. The draft report estimates around 20,000 acre feet as of 2012 (theoretical maximum storage is about 26,000 acre feet). However, the report also indicates that the basin actually has only 13,000 acre feet of recoverable water.
Wildermuth predicts that due to the plans to continue pumping water out of the depleted basin, seawater intrusion is imminent.
Our water plant is not capable of processing seawater; therefore the intrusion of seawater would not only cause the plant to shut down but would cause all of the other very expensive wells in the area to become unusable.
The proposed solutions are outrageously expensive and could drastically increase our already-high water rates.
Rainfall recharges the water supply, amounting to about 6800 acre feet in a normal year. According to the report however, planned pumping of the basin will exceed the recharge amount, causing depletion and lowering of the water level, exposing it to seawater intrusion.
Both San Juan and SCWD are expanding their groundwater plants to pump increased amounts. San Juan recently applied for and received another $5 million in taxpayer funding to expand our plant.
The report proposes a series of “alternative solutions” to sustain planned basin pumping, conditioned on when - or if - a desalinization plant will be constructed near Doheny Beach by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).
The proposed alternatives are:
1. Alternate 1: Continued monitoring of the basin; pumping levels would be reduced as necessary to avoid sea water intrusion.
2. Alternate 2: Build on Alternate 1, and add a seawater barrier by drilling injection wells. Injection water would come from MWD initially, but may use recycled water in the future. Cost estimates include $3 million construction plus annual cost of $1.2 million.
3. Alternate 3: Construct a seawater extractive barrier to block seawater intrusion (water would at first be brackish, then become seawater). New seawater treatment facilities constructed by SCWD. Cost estimates: $42 million for new facilities plus $4 million annual cost.
4. Alternate 4: Construct of injection wells to control seawater intrusion plus 2 “Ranney wells” to pump water from bottom of basin during dry years. Ranney wells cost: approx. $5.5 million each, plus annual cost of $651,000. Total cost: $11 million construction plus $1.3 million annually.
5. Alternate 5: Builds on Alternate 4 but includes construction/operation of in-stream recharge barriers /ponds to increase storage capacity. Estimated cost: same as alternate 4 plus maintenance cost of recharge barriers.
6. Alternate 6: Builds on Alternate 5 and adds recycled water recharge from April to October in 27 acres of stream bed. Requires purchase of “tertiary-treated water effluent” from SOCWA and expansion of SOCWA facility, plus pumping recycled water uphill to recharge ponds. Costs for alternate 6 unknown, but thought to be in excess of $50 million.
CONCLUSION / OPINION
§ Expanded pumping by San Juan and SCWD will require considerable taxpayer funding, dramatically increasing our already-high water rates.
§ Despite a recent water study that predicted the basin would be pumped to dangerously low levels if no recharge system was implemented, to date no recharge facilities have been built.
§ San Juan and SCWD taxpayers can expect to be saddled with millions of dollars in new bond debt to serve the “water empire“ and their highly paid employees (San Juan’s employee cost alone now stands at about $2.4 million annually.
§ The SJBA’s alternatives are outrageously expensive with questionable outcomes. The SJBA report ignores the fact that MWD water is more reliable and less expensive than our locally produced water.
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