• Publisher’s Blog: Desal alone won’t solve water woes

    Last night, May 7, I attended a slide presentation by Jim Heitzman of Marina Coast Water District. We, as a newspaper, sponsored the talk and question-and-answer session afterward with Heitzman and Craig Anthony, CEO of California-American Water.

    While I’ve seen the bulk of the presentation before, there is always something new to glean in reviewing a subject. And what I gleaned from this presentation came as a bit of a shock.

    This is a replacement water project. It does not increase the supply to Pacific Grove nor provide any additional water for new projects so dearly loved by the Chamber of Commerce. No new water credits for restaurants in vacant retail spaces downtown. No water for increased numbers of hotel rooms in spite of the city council looking at Measure C again.

    Nor will there be new water for second bathrooms in outdated homes to increase real estate values, sales and taxes.

    No increased population density to make better use of the limited space available to us here in Pacific Grove – Grandma can’t move in when she can’t live alone. Odds of walking to work in PG just went down. Forget hopes of roses in the garden, concentrate on xeriscape landscaping instead.

    California-American Water will ask for a moratorium on all new water very shortly.

    I fully support the project, don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy about the price tag, but I understand better now why Marina will pay so much less than Pacific Grove for their water: Pure and simple, they won’t have to pipe it as far.

    I believe Craig Anthony when he says the average water bill on the Peninsula will increase from the present $40 to $80 or so. They’re already paying $63 in Alisal, and around $150 in San Diego. I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall as Ratepayers justifies the figures they used to project an exorbitant bill, and that may come next week in discussions before the PUC, or it may come later in June after hearings.

    But compared to some other communities, we’ll be getting off pretty cheaply. And there’s not a lot we can do. Conservation remains top of the list.

    Like it or not, the state-of-the-art desalination plant is coming and it’s the quickest, most effective, ecologically-sound and cheapest solution that we have. Compared to the two other projects which were examined, this is the one. As a city, we’ve supported the project since former Mayor Cort first got involved in the discussions, in meetings facilitated by Supervisor Lou Calcagno.

    But no new water? Everything status quo but the water bill?

    How do we get more water to do the things we want, as a community, to do? There’s a finite amount on earth, you know. We need to look at every single drop we use. And at some point the cost is moot. There may come a point where, as a population, we’d pay anything for more water.

    Conservation is one answer, of course. It gets tiresome to hear about, but that’s one of the first steps and the one that will endure. Eventually, it becomes a way of life. It’s also the cheapest. And we’ve done an absolutely stellar job of conserving water, especially compared to some other communities.

    In our individual homes, we need to look at fog catchers, rainwater cachement and cisterns. The less we take from the municipal system, the more will be available for other uses.

    But as long as we continue to water our lawns, the cemetery, the golf course, our parks, ballfields and schools with potable water no amount of turning the water off while we brush our teeth or sharing our flushes is going to make an appreciable difference.

    One city council member even suggested we use artificial turf in the El Carmelo Cemetery. Be careful, Pacific Grove, or you may find plastic growing on the golf course as well!

    Underneath Pacific Grove is a granite slab. And running along the top of that slab is a freshwater river. It goes out to the ocean and we never see it. We need to capture that water with spring boxes, use it and send it on its way.
    We have plenty of rainfall in the winter, but in the dry months we depend on water from other sources. We need to store that rainfall and make it available in June.

    We need to look at the David Avenue Reservoir again. We’ve spent $90,000 as a city, in grant money and matching funds, to prove that it’s viable, and where did did the project go? Dan Cort left office and the ball was tossed to the ad hoc water committee. Now council member Deborah Lindsay is moving to Santa Cruz and Lisa Bennett says she will not run for office again in November, so who’s going to carry the ball?

    Just because we’re surrounded by water doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Water is more important than CalPERS, Measure C or traffic bulb-outs. Without it, those things don’t matter. So who will pick up the fumble?

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 8, 2010

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News

    One Response to “Publisher’s Blog: Desal alone won’t solve water woes”

    1. handy Says:
      May 8th, 2010 at 11:02 am

      Things other cities have done:
      -Create a new pond near our Sally Center on the golf course to hold rain gutter water & use that to water the course the rest of the year.
      -Put in washing machine gray water recycling machines. Or do it yourself, just have the water run through a big container of mulch to filter out the soap. Or use organic soaps & cold water.
      -Put in grates rather than street gutters. Grates allow gutter water to soak into the earth first rather than run onto the beaches where children play.
      -Gray water recycling programs.

      My pipes need enough water to keep them clean so don’t want to skimp on flushing.

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