River Watch Header Image

Santa Rosa Water and Population

Daisy Pistey-Lyhne – Greenbelt Alliance wrote:
Thought you all might be interested in reading about a recent meeting between Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, and Dick Dowd of the Board of Public Utilities. He mentioned some info given to him by Brenda Adelman.

From: Anne Seeley, Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa

Our guest today was Dick Dowd, Chairman of the Board of Public Utilities. He was invited as a result of his recent declaration to the City Council that future water supply options are limited and that the Urban Reuse Water Program (URWP) being considered as part of the Incremental Wastewater Reuse Program is the best way to offset potable water use.

Dick described the dual responsibilities of the BPU: to ensure water supply as well as handle the wastewater treatment and disposal side. Our current system was created on the basis of older General Plans in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park than current ones predicting 30,000 more residents. In addition, there are the challenges of the California Toxics Rule and new plans for protection of California Tiger Salamander.

The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) has been to Washington D.C, trying unsuccessfully to obtain greater river water supplies. Dick described the 4 options for ensuring adequate drinking water: 1) greater supply from the river; 2) groundwater – studies are underway on this and 3 or 4 new wells have been drilled that yielded poor quality and/or quantities of water; 3) agricultural reuse offsets for potable water – the North County Ag District, for which the Geysers pipeline was upsized, hasn’t resolved its disputes over where storage ponds will be provided and how such water will then be shared; 4) an Urban Reuse program which could offset with recycled water the good drinking water that irrigates golf courses, parks, large multi-family housing projects and large commercial site plantings.

It was interesting that he described the suggested pipeline from Lake Sonoma to the river option as being a $500 million to $1 billion project, and very difficult to pull off.

For the URWP, storage is needed, just as in the ag projects. One reservoir site being considered is at Place To Play. The projected cost is $120 million. Currently, service to homes is not being considered, as there are risks with over-irrigating, and monitoring of thousands of homes by the BPU staff would be impossible.

On the wastewater side, Dick said that options being considered are sending up to 19 million gallons a day, up from 11 now, and switching the discharge site from the Laguna to direct discharge to the river. {Studies are underway re indirect vs. direct discharge, but my impression is that direct discharge is going to happen.} For conservation, the city has installed about 50,000 1.6 gallon toilets, and is now planning a program for “double flush” toilet installations.

Brenda Adelman has provided the BPU with analyses of recent population changes versus increases in treatment plant volumes, showing that the city’s projections for sewage flows are overstated, resulting in bigger program plans. Len Holt asked if the EPA is considering rules on endocrine disruptors in recycled water, and didn’t get an answer, as Dick described the multiple challenges the system has to meet.

Hi river lovers:

The City keeps saying they need to discharge as much as 4.5 billion
gallons during wet years. I pointed out that they only discharged 1.3
billion last year which was a VERY wet year. (The 4.5 BGY is really based
on pre-Geysers discharges).

The only reason they need to discharge during wet years is because they have leaky pipes that allow great amounts of infiltration. The pipes were built to last about 50 years at most, but the City has a 120 year “aggressive” replacement schedule. They find it easier to just engineer solutions that involve high costs and environmental destruction.

More conservation, fixing their pipes at a 50 year, rather than 120 year
cycle, and sending a little more to the Geysers, would solve the problem
without river discharge. The summer irrigation program they are planning
for $1.25 Million is not going to help a lot in the winter time unless they
have humungous storage ponds to store the water. Furthermore, there is
great risk of “incidental” runoff in the summer, during the no discharge
season, when creeks and people are much more vulnerable.

Brenda

PS: The growth chart shows that SR and RP only project 30,000 more people
by 2020 (recent articles in PD imply GP projections may not reach that
however). The Growth chart shows past growth, as well as additions to flow
to Treatment Plant (TP) from that growth. The point of the second chart is
that wastewater production from anticipated growth is not keeping pace with
estimates. In 1985, flow to the TP was around 13 million gallons (MG) and
now it’s about 17.5 MG. That’s 4.5 MG in 20 years. Yet the City is
projecting twice as much to serve 30,000 people only 14 years from now. It
just doesn’t add up. The City is greatly inflating their numbers.