City Council Report
City Council Meeting: March 8, 2011
Agenda Item: 4-A
To: Mayor and City Council
From: Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works
Dean Kubani, Director, Office of Sustainability and the Environment
Subject: Water Self-Sufficiency Study Session
Staff recommends that Council review and provide input on developing a plan to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2020.
Achieving 100% water self-sufficiency means closing the gap that exists between total water demand and total water available locally. This gap of 3,729 acre-feet may be eliminated by a combination of maximizing the use of groundwater resources at a sustainable level, increasing water conservation efforts, capturing and using rainwater and dry-weather runoff, and reusing graywater. It may also require enhanced water recycling efforts and reuse of wastewater and other innovations.
A plan to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2020 by necessity will include multiple inputs and analyses. In an effort to merge these elements toward realizing self-sufficiency, staff envisions developing a Water Master Plan. The master plan will serve as a strategic review and forecast of the city’s water supply and demand picture, as well as an “umbrella” plan to amalgamate existing strategies.
On September 20, 2010, the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment unanimously adopted the following motion regarding water self-sufficiency:
“The Task Force on the Environment recommends that City Council direct staff to develop a plan to reach a 100% sustainable water supply (100% water self-sufficiency from local sources) by 2020. This plan should include 1) a safe yield analysis of all City owned ground water resources, including Charnock, Olympic and Arcadia basins, 2) an analysis of the impact of enhanced ground water augmentation through storm water infiltration on the transport of contaminates, and 3) a thorough economic analysis of the costs, benefits and potential savings that could be achieved by reaching this sustainable goal.”
On January 25, 2011, Council directed staff to develop a water self-sufficiency plan and to prepare a study session on the topic.
Achieving water self-sufficiency in Santa Monica is a complex and ambitious goal with regional as well as local benefits. Every drop of imported water conserved by Santa Monica reduces the regional demand for imported water, which may be available for other uses within the State.
In direct terms, achieving 100% water self-sufficiency means closing the gap that exists between total water demand and total water available locally. For example, projections for FY 2011/2012 indicate a total demand of 13,229 acre-feet, and a local production capability of 9,500 acre-feet. The difference (3,729 acre-feet) represents the gap to be eliminated in order to achieve 100% self-sufficiency, as illustrated below.
Supply vs. Demand FY 2004/2005 through 2014/2015 (projected)
The City of Santa Monica is fortunate to be able to meet a significant portion of its water needs through the local pumping of groundwater from City wells. The City has pumped groundwater in the Santa Monica Basin since the 1920s and pumps water from well fields in three subbasins of the Santa Monica Basin:
1. The Santa Monica Well Field located in the Olympic sub-basin;
2. The Charnock Well Field located in the Charnock sub-basin; and
3. The Arcadia Well Field located in the Arcadia sub-basin.
This water is supplemented with purchases of imported water from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). Starting in 1990, the City began measures to reduce the amount of imported water purchased from MWD through the increase of groundwater production and the implementation of water conservation programs and policies. From 1990 to 1995 the percentage of total water supply from local groundwater increased from 31 percent to 70 percent. In 1996, the gasoline additive MTBE was detected in Santa Monica’s groundwater wells which caused the City to cease production from both the Arcadia and Charnock well fields, resulting in a significant loss of locally produced water. As a result, the City was forced to increase its purchases of imported water from MWD. Consequently, over 85% of the water used in Santa Monica during the last decade was imported.
Near the end of 2010, two new treatment plants at the Arcadia and Charnock well fields began operation and Santa Monica once again obtains a majority of its water from its own local groundwater wells. However, 15 years of reliance on imported water coupled with recent droughts and the severe long-term outlook for water resources in California and the Western United States highlights the need to increase Santa Monica’s water self-sufficiency to ensure a sustainable water supply to support the city’s residents, businesses, and the local economy.
Developing and implementing a water self-sufficiency plan will ensure that the City adequately manages its water supplies given that water resources are limited and imported water is not sustainable. Challenges have been noted by leading climate change experts predicting that the Western United States will face extended periodic droughts over the next 30 years and at other times severe storms will produce severe flooding. Recently enacted State legislation requires each urban water retailer to reduce per capita water demand 20% by 2020. This will require residents and businesses to reduce current demand while facing climate change impacts, all of which reinforce the value of developing a plan.
Local water supplies are limited by the amount of water available for extraction within the groundwater basin, the recharge rate, the amount that can be safely withdrawn, and the amount that the existing treatment facility can treat in a given day. Imported water is limited by similar issues, and those limited supplies are shared throughout the region and State. Imported water also has a higher environmental impact due to higher energy demands to pump, transport, and treat the water. There is also higher potential for negative impacts to wildlife and habitat due to the extraction and transport of these water supplies over vast areas of the State. The cost to purchase imported water will continue to rise to off-set these challenges.
The challenge in pursuing self-sufficiency resides in creating a comprehensive approach not only in identifying the water resource portfolio required to close the gap, but also the financial, operational, and policy considerations required to do so. In addition to maximizing the use of groundwater resources at a sustainable level, achieving this goal will require increased water conservation efforts, the capture and use of rainwater and dry-weather runoff, and the reuse of graywater to offset potable water use. It may also require enhanced water recycling efforts and reuse of wastewater and other innovations. While these efforts will require investments in the short term, it is anticipated that they will result in long term cost savings for all water users in the city as well as the security of a sustainable water supply as we move into an uncertain future. Projections of imported water costs from MWD indicate treated water costs will approach $1200 per acre foot by the year 2020. Currently, the price of treated water is $744 per acre foot.
The development of a plan to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2020 requires a multifaceted approach. Many of the pieces of the plan have been recently completed or are in progress. Among these are the Water Supply Assessment in the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element, the City’s Water Resources Division Asset Management Plan, the 2010 update of the City’s Urban Water Management Plan, the 2009 Water Shortage Response Plan, and the 2006 Watershed Management Plan.
In an effort to merge these elements toward realizing self-sufficiency, staff envisions developing a Water Master Plan. The master plan will serve as a strategic review and forecast of the City’s water supply and demand picture, as well as an “umbrella” plan to amalgamate existing strategies. The Water Master Plan will delineate the physical and policy requirements to meet the 100% by 2020 goal, and continue providing potable water to all of Santa Monica’s customers. In addition to merging the various plans already in existence, the Water Master Plan will evaluate supply options including increased use of groundwater, recycled water, stormwater and graywater, and demand management options including various water conservation strategies. The plan will include a review of the existing and future regulatory environment, and the development of a numerical model to analyze existing conditions, evaluate the current and projected water system capacity and necessary future improvements. The Water Master Plan will also include a financial analysis to address rates and proposed capital improvement plans.
This spring, the Water Resources Division will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to select a consultant to develop the Water Master Plan. By early summer, staff will return to City Council with a recommended consultant for selection. The Master Water Plan is anticipated to be completed by June 2012.