July 25, 2012

SMWD Board Continues Decision on Proposed Cadiz Project

Special Board Meeting Scheduled for July 31

The Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) Board of Directors has continued its consideration and review of the proposed Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (Cadiz Project), scheduling a follow-up special board meeting for July 31 at 6:00 p.m. at the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center.

A public hearing was held tonight to begin review of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the proposed project. SMWD is the lead agency for the environmental review of the proposed project, which would provide a new supplemental Southern California supply of water for SMWD and other Southern California water providers. SMWD had arranged for the public to provide comments in two locations to make it easier for residents of Orange and San Bernardino counties to participate.

In addition to considering the FEIR, the Board reviewed a Water Purchase and Sales Agreement (Purchase Agreement), which outlined the basic financial terms for purchasing water from the proposed Cadiz Project, and a Groundwater Monitoring, Management and Mitigation Plan, which would create a framework for independent monitoring of the proposed project’s operations and protection of the desert’s natural resources.

“For decades, Santa Margarita Water District has relied on imported water to meet our customers’ needs, and that supply has become increasingly unreliable because of drought, regulatory restrictions and the prospect of an earthquake or other major disaster disrupting the state’s primary water delivery system,” said Bill Lawson, SMWD Board President. “It is our duty and fiduciary responsibility as a public agency to explore additional, supplemental supplies.” 

The Purchase Agreement presented to the Board for consideration outlined the basic financial terms for SMWD to purchase at least 5,000 acre-feet of water annually from the proposed Cadiz Project, if it becomes operational. The 5,000 acre-feet of water represents approximately 20% of the District’s overall water sales and would help to diversify supply and increase reliability.

The price of the treated water is estimated to be between $827 and $1,127 per acre-foot, which would be comparable to the projected future price of the District’s current imported water supply, provided by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD).

As with any new supplemental water source the District explores, water delivered to SMWD from the proposed Cadiz Project would be required to meet all federal and state standards for drinking water, which are some of the most stringent in the nation. Groundwater at Cadiz, without any treatment, meets all current state and federal water quality standards for drinking water.

The Groundwater Monitoring, Management and Mitigation Plan the Board reviewed would establish a robust monitoring program in partnership with San Bernardino County to provide independent oversight of the operations of the Cadiz Project and protection for the desert’s natural resources, if the project becomes operational.

For more than 45 years, SMWD has provided its customers a safe, affordable and reliable supply of water. However, the District currently relies almost entirely on imported water supplies that are threatened by recurring drought cycles, regulatory restrictions and potential natural disasters, like earthquakes. Accordingly, SMWD is exploring additional innovative and diverse opportunities to protect reliability and help stabilize rates, including the proposed Cadiz Project.

The proposed Cadiz Project would provide a new Southern California water supply by actively managing a groundwater basin that is part of a 1,300-square-mile watershed in eastern San Bernardino County. Water that would otherwise evaporate would be collected and conserved for beneficial use. The project would then convey the conserved water to SMWD and to other Southern California water providers.

An independent team of scientific, environmental and engineering experts was engaged to conduct a comprehensive environmental review, to obtain public input and determine the feasibility of the proposed Cadiz Project. After obtaining that public input and carefully evaluating the project, SMWD issued a nearly 3,000-page Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in December 2011. The DEIR found the project would avoid any significant unmitigatable impacts to desert resources—except for some short-term construction emissions.

The District received public comments on the DEIR and provided responses to those comments in the FEIR that was before the Board for review today.

“We greatly appreciate all the input and comments provided by stakeholders and our customers today and we look forward to continuing a thoughtful discussion,” said Roger Faubel, SMWD Board member. “Given our reliance on imported water, it is crucial that this district carefully study and pursue innovative projects, like the proposed Cadiz Project, as we work to expand our water supply portfolio and ensure reliable supplies for the 155,000 customers who rely on Santa Margarita Water District.”

Click here for more information on the proposed Cadiz Project.

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