Letter to the Editor

Friday, March 31, 2017

Questioning SCE’s water calculations

I appreciate the Islander’s review of the recent City Council meeting of Southern California Edison’s “preview” of its long-awaited water plan.  I questioned SCE’s assurance that we will not be facing Stage 2 again until April 2019 (not April 2018 as reported by the Islander), 25 months from now, even with no additional rain during that time frame, based on the following facts:

In January 2013, Middle Ranch Reservoir was at 657 acre feet; as of the 3/21 meeting, we were at 556 (101 acre feet LESS).  From January 2013 to August 2014 (20 months) the level went down from 657 to 311 at which point Stage 2 rationing was imposed – a drop of 346 acre feet.

During that time, Desal Plant #1 was available to produce water.

Consider this –  if our water use during the next 20 months in Stage 1 equals our water use in 2013-2014 – when visitor counts were much less – the Reservoir level will drop from 556 to 211 acre feet in 20 months – that’s Stage 3 territory not Stage 2 UNLESS Desal #2 produces enough to keep us out of Stage 2.

SCE’s projection to April 2019 is based on production of water by Desal Plant #1 (which is 32 years old) and Desal Plant #2, installed last year.  Remember that SCE assured us – while we pitched in $500,000 from our city’s very lean savings account to help purchase it – that Desal #2 would stave off Stage 3.

This is what the press release from SCE said about it: “As a supplement to the groundwater sources, the utility has operated a desalination plant since the 1990s, which can produce 200,000 gallons of water a day.

The new desalination unit, which will be connected to SCE’s desalination plant, will have the capacity to produce an additional 150,000 gallons of water a day.”   This is what SCE’s preview report from March 23, 2017 says about current operational production:  230,000 – 290,000 gallons per day.

Before we accept assurances about what lies ahead, the public should have the opportunity to understand just how much water the unit we helped buy is producing and how much Southern California Edison thinks we should be paying for that water.

I for one, would prefer to see some level of water rationing kept in place if SCE’s projections are in fact overly optimistic, especially given the three year time frame and uncertainty involved in obtaining grant funding and then getting permits and constructing improvements such as storage or new seawater wells.

Let’s learn from the past, rather than repeating it. And repeating it.

Pam Albers


Editor’s Note: The online version of the article to which Ms. Albers refers has been corrected.


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