Amid drought, why waste water
August 27, 2014
By TOM SALMON
In the daily newspaper on Aug. 19, Lynette Tornatsky took issue with “Too little, too late”, my letter to the editor at the daily newspaper.
Yes Lynette, the hydrogeology in Los Osos is such that some 300,000 to 1 million gallons of groundwater migrates to Morro Bay each day. This underflow is made up of rainfall (when we have it) outdoor irrigation and primary treated septic system effluent and the many natural springs that are peppered throughout the community. This underflow is similar to any community’s geology where its underflows reach creeks, streams, bays and oceans.
This is normal, as water finds itself and rolls downhill. What is pumped out of the ground reduces what goes to the bay, it is just science.
The point of my letter was to point out the irony in which the Los Osos Community Services District (LOCSD) adopted mandatory outdoor water conservation measures at their last meeting, yet just months earlier allowed for 150 million gallons of treatable groundwater associated with the county’s sewer system construction to be purposely pumped to the bay. This was approximately equivalent to half the drinking supply the LOCSD provides on an annual basis.
What Lynette also fails to realize is that as the sewer collection system main lines were installed they could have been used as conveyance to the dozens already built recharge locations that pepper the community, these being specifically built for recharge. The cost of power was often negated by siphoning over raised terrain.
Ideally, the multi-million dollar eight acre engineered leach field intended for recharge as part of the disposal scheme for the wastewater project would have been used for just such recharge purpose. This particular location is designed to accept 880,000 acre feet of treated wastewater each year. In fact, county engineers proposed the use of this site for construction water and suggested it be exercised prior to the treatment facility coming on line.
My statement suggests the LOCSD didn’t go far enough to protect our water supply when it wrote a letter to the Regional Water Quality Control Board asking them to intervene in the bay dumping practice. Instead, I suggested that as a partner in the ongoing litigation over the Los Osos Groundwater Basin that the CSD flex its legal muscle to the county who is a partner in the ongoing legal morass and demand the dumping cease.
This opinion was in no way intended to stop the project. This is a common sense approach to a complex problem.
Lynette suggests that the LOCSD has limited funding or is in her words “broke” and hasn’t been able to implement a water conservation program. She must have forgotten that the LOCSD has budgeted $30,000 for water conservation programs for the last several years yet has done nothing with those funds. As they hire inept general managers over and over again, including the current one who doesn’t think she needs to abide by the California State Constitution.
When I moved to Los Osos there was no CSD, the county services area and water was managed by them. I would walk my $20 flat fee, every other month to the water yard and slip it in the slot or hand it to the lady who worked part time sitting behind the desk.
Lynette didn’t live in Los Osos when the LOCSD was formed, when it ballooned, from a very small staff of 2.5 full time employees’ to an admin-heavy complete waste of taxpayer funds.
The only good thing I can think of since the LOCSD was formed is those early boards changed the water bill to a tiered rate structure, I now pay for what I use and the rates incentivize water conservation. LOCSD customers now use very little water; in fact as a community we use 70 percent of our water indoors and just 30 percent outdoors. This is the reverse of most communities.
The LOCSD’s adoption of mandatory outdoor water conservation measures does not implement water conservation; it’s a temporary Band-Aid for what’s really going on.
If those 150 million gallons of water that were lost to the bay had been sold at retail prices it could have paid tenfold that of what it would cost for transmission to the Broderson leachfield.
I encourage you to revisit the basin plan’s $67 million capital improvement project list (on top of the county’s $183 million sewer and the $20 million spent by the pre-recall LOCSD) intended to mitigate seawater intrusion.Amid Implementation is years away, that water can never be recovered and your complacent support for the project, as it steamrolled this community, is what has driven the cost of the sewer project up and my neighbors out.
Lynette’s husband, Lou, is running for a seat on the LOCSD board in this election. If he is as misinformed as she is and wins; good luck to us all.
Tom Salmon, is a longtime Los Osos resident with 35 years of expertise in statewide public infrastructure.