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California American Water is hosting multiple interactive community workshops to help residents learn more about our water supply, the impact of the drought and affordability. All interested members of the community are encouraged to attend. 

Upcoming meetings will be listed here.


Guest Commentary: Despite other projects, we still need desal

I have served on the Monterey 1 Water Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors for the past eight years, while both Pure Water Monterey and Pure Water Monterey expansion were approved.

I supported both Pure Water and reluctantly, Pure Water Monterey expansion as possible additional sources of water to supply the Monterey Peninsula; but not as a replacement for desal and the water supply project that the Monterey Peninsula so desperately needs.

The reason Pure Water Monterey cannot be the sole water solution is simple; there is just not enough reliable source water, which is primarily reclaimed agricultural drain and industrial wastewater from the Salinas Valley, available.

When the M1W agency embarked on the Pure Water Monterey project, we all knew and it was never intended that recycled water could meet all the water needs of the Monterey Peninsula.  We always anticipated that desal would also be needed to meet even the current Peninsula water needs.

The expansion project was not initiated by our board but was proposed by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management agency and they paid for the EIR costs.  Initially, our board was so concerned about inadequacy of source water that we took unprecedented steps and voted not to certify the EIR.  Later, we reluctantly moved forward on the expansion project, concluding that it would at least provide some water for the Monterey Peninsula.

Unfortunately, these two projects, Pure Water Monterey and Expansion, have now been calculatedly used by some to try to undermine and derail the proposed desal project, claiming these recycled water projects will meet all the water needs of the Monterey Peninsula.  That just isn’t so.  Even if these two projects worked perfectly and can produce the projected amounts of water (5750 AF) these sources cannot meet the water needs of the Monterey Peninsula.  That is not just my opinion but is supported by every water study and testimony before the CPUC.

Pure Water Monterey may produce enough water to offset the pumping from the Carmel River ordered by the state of California 25 years ago but it will not produce enough water to allow the lifting of the moratorium on new or increased water connections according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

While the Pure Water Monterey project has been successful and our M1W board is quite proud of it, it has not been without its challenges.  Additional extraction wells were needed, the cost of the water has almost doubled throughout the project and some source water we relied on didn’t materialize, we have been unable to effectively treat the Ag wash water due to its intense chemical content.  But we have been successfully producing 3,500 acre-feet of water a year.

Expansion is entirely another matter.  Now that we have had the opportunity to observe the operation of Pure Water Monterey during the recent drought years and its impact on the Salinas Valley Basin, many of us are quite concerned about adequacy of source water for expansion, the possible negative impact it may have on Castroville Salt Water Instruction Project and saltwater intrusion in the Salinas Basin.

These concerns about the expansion project have led to the Monterey County Water Resource Agency sending a six-page letter to both the CPUC and the Coastal Commission, expressing their concern.  Those letters are available online.  Two quotes, however, stand out.

“Based on the operational experiences of the past two years with the PWM projects online, MCWRA’s concerns regarding the availability of sufficient source waters for both the PWM and the PWMx projects are heightened, especially in dry/drought conditions. MCWRA estimates there is only 1,688 AFY of water available for the PWMx, mostly during the winter months”

“MCWRA is concerned that M1W might be prioritizing wastewater use for PWM when it should be utilized for CSIP, and that this situation could worsen considerably with the PWMx project, especially if the drought continues”

I fully support this desal project, not just for the residents and businesses on the Monterey Peninsula, but also for all the residents from my district who work on the Peninsula.

And I support this desal project for a more selfish reason; the town of Castroville, where my office sits, is by all accounts a disadvantaged community that sits in the center of the area impacted by saltwater intrusion.  The water table is dropping and our wells are becoming saltier by the month.  Desal is the only solution for Castroville’s survival.  This desal project has committed to supplying sufficient water to Castroville to meet its current water needs and allow it to thrive.

John M. Phillips is a Monterey County Supervisor (District 2) and a member of the Monterey 1 Water Board of Directors


Fred Meurer, guest commentary: We need Coastal Commissions to approve water Project

In the mid 1990s, state water authorities put a limit on the daily water allowed to be pumped from Carmel River, the primary source of water for the Monterey Peninsula. The result has been more than twenty-five years of uncertainty for the Monterey Peninsula as water demands continued to rise without adequate supply.

As Chairman of the Monterey Bay Defense Alliance, a long-time Monterey County resident, the former Monterey City Manager and former Ft. Ord Director of Public Works and Housing with an advanced degree from Stanford University in Water Resources, I say with the strongest convictions that the California Coastal Commission should approve the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project ( MPWSP) to meet the needs of our current and future residents, businesses and military missions which desperately need a reliable source for long-term resilient water supply.

When Californians hear about water shortages, the first thing that comes to mind is clean drinking water. But inadequate water supply has an impact on housing, business, local economies and even on national security. A well-designed water supply should be structured to provide a responsive and resilient supply of water sufficient to meet the demands of local government’s general plans and housing elements. Stifling the water supply to control growth, as has been done on the Monterey Peninsula, is bad public policy and results in land use decisions based on water available rather than the housing needs of a community. The result of this bad policy is reflected in part by the critical shortage of affordable workforce housing on the Peninsula.

The Monterey Bay Defense Alliance (MBDA), which I Chair, works to ensure that the national security activities in the Monterey Region have access to adequate and reliable critical infrastructure such as water, power, and workforce housing sufficient to meet current and future needs. Our mission is to protect and further the interests of Monterey County’s military missions, which generate $2.6B per year in economic activity and are responsible for 18,300 jobs in Monterey. However, with a building moratorium in place due to limited water supply, it’s impossible to ensure workforce housing for our current servicemembers, our veterans, or the civilian workforce supporting our military missions is available.

These interests are what bring me to support the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (MPWSP), which will provide a critically needed, reliable, and resilient water source for our region and protect us against future droughts. The project is necessary for the economic vitality of the Monterey Peninsula and our military installations.

The MPWSP is designed to provide an adequate and reliable drought-proof water supply to the Monterey Peninsula. Our community desperately needs the assurance that our region has the water needed to grow, thrive, and take care of our residents. Extended periods of drought have created an unprecedented water crisis that threatens jobs and our local economy, including the continued presence of local national security assets and military missions in our region.

Opponents to the project argue that desalination is not needed and urge others to believe that there are other potential water sources that can be enlarged sufficiently to meet the expected demand. The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) has published a Supply-Demand analysis that purports to demonstrate this theory. Their theory is based on hope, not facts

Furthermore, the population projections opponents have used to calculate demand do not include the populations associated with State mandated housing construction requirements. Our current supply and the opponents’ proposed supply fail to meet current and future demands.

The region’s water troubles are a major threat to our future. The MPWSP’s desalination project provides the solution we have been debating for too long. The lack of water and subsequent building moratorium has exacerbated the housing crisis in the region, increasing housing costs, and forcing workers to drive long distances between their jobs and affordable housing. The lack of workforce housing has become critical for our military organizations. This shortage is severely impacting their ability to maintain or recruit the highly technical civilian workforce they need to do their mission of supporting units in combat. The Commander of one operational unit recently stated that they were being forced to consider moving their mission elsewhere because of the lack of workforce housing.

The MPWSP is part of a comprehensive approach to creating a long-term, reliable water source through a portfolio of desalination, stormwater capture, and water recycling. It will protect the Carmel River ecosystem, supply new water for housing and jobs, and improve coastal access for local communities. The Monterey Peninsula has been in dire need of additional drought-proof, reliable water supplies for over four decades. There’s no time left to wait. Without new water supplies, our Peninsula could face water rationing and further pressure on a strained economy.

Our region needs the California Coastal Commission to approve the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project.


Editorial: You have to think about it

THE COASTAL Commission’s staff report recommending approval of Cal Am’s desal plant requires careful reading before you can understand it, but not because it contains a lot of technical terminology or data. In fact, the inscrutable parts aren’t even on the printed pages. They’re between the lines, and you have to pay close attention to pick up on them.

Consider, for example, that desal opponents are dismissing the staff report recommending approval of Cal Am’s plan because they say it’s “political” — a criticism that can usually be understood to mean something was done to curry favor with voters even though it’s wrong. But in this case, there’s a very strong policy reason to support the desal plant — namely, that we need water. The public understands that, and they also understand that getting the water will be expensive.

For everybody involved, deciding to  build the desal plant is a difficult thing to do. We all wish there were a cheaper, less energy-intensive way to accomplish the same thing. Considering their longstanding antipathy to any kind of development along the coast, we’re sure that’s even true for the coastal commission’s staff, including executive director Jack Ainsworth.

The only possible reason for them to support the desal plant is that they know the people of the Monterey Peninsula need the water — and as we just said, that’s not politics, it’s policy.

Another thing that’s not expressly said in the staff report is that while Marina insists that the source wells for the desal plant will harm the Salinas Valley groundwater, there are no expert reports or data that support this conclusion. Which is to say, it’s not true.

Perhaps to mollify Marina’s mayor, Bruce Delgado, the staff report notes that “the record contains competing views regarding groundwater impacts” and says “the City of Marina and the Marina Coast Water District are deeply concerned that the project would adversely affect the groundwater aquifers that they rely on” — but it doesn’t include a scintilla of evidence to support this “deeply concerning” claim.

Finally, the coastal commission staff report wanders into familiar territory when it says the desal project “creates several serious environmental justice issues.” But what are these environmental justice issues?

The first is that the desal plant will increase water bills, which means low-income people would have more trouble paying them than rich people would. But the report solves this problem immediately by noting that lower-income people will receive subsidies to keep their water bills affordable.


What about the fact that the people of Marina have long had to bear, as the staff report notes, a “disproportionate share of industrial facilities and uses”?

True, it’s near what used to be Fort Ord. It’s also close to a landfill and wastewater treatment plant. But another thing that’s true is that Marina is experiencing a colossal boom in home prices as rich people from Silicon Valley swoop in to buy all those fancy new houses built where soldiers used to live and train. Just last week, eight homes in Marina sold for more than $800,000, and four of those were for more than $1 million. If the city is such an overburdened, miserable and polluted industrial wasteland, prices wouldn’t be so high, would they? Of course not. But this goes unmentioned in the coastal commission report.

As we said before, approval of this desal plant is not something to be done lightly. But after 20 years of debate, study and controversy, it’s something that should be done — and done now.

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