News Briefs: Santa Barbara to Restart Desalination Plant

In this week's news, Santa Barbara officials opt for desalination, a water utility invests $50 million in its future, and a West Coast water district faces a hefty fine.
News Briefs: Santa Barbara to Restart Desalination Plant

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City Council Votes to Reactivate Desalination Plant
Santa Barbara City Council members voted unanimously July 21 in favor of spending $55 million to reactivate a closed desalination plant. The plant could supply the city with nearly a third of its drinking water, the LA Times reports.

Built during a drought in the 1990s, the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility was in operation for only a few years, closing as the drought came to an end. Though the plant was never used beyond a testing period, the city maintained it in case there was another severe water shortage, such as the one at present.

“Desalination has been a last resort,” Mayor Helene Schneider says. “The way the drought has continued these last four years, we are really getting at that last resort.”

The process of reopening the plant started when the city’s main reservoir, Lake Cachuma, dropped below 30 percent capacity. The plant is expected to be in operation by fall 2016.

Source: LA Times

Water Utility Invests $50 million on Land for Future Water Source
El Paso Water Utilities will spend $50 million to buy 26,000 acres as a future water source to support an expected growth in water demand over the next 50 years. The Texas Water Development Board approved a low-interest loan July 23 to fund the purchase.

Water will be piped over 75 miles through mountains and desert, which will translate into increased bills for the utility’s customers, a spokeswoman for the utility says. El Paso’s water demand is expected to grow from the current 125,000 acre-feet per year to 208,000 acre-feet by 2060, the El Paso Times reports.

“Simply increasing local groundwater supplies to increase water production will not meet future demands,” says Christina Montoya, spokeswoman for EPWU.

In addition to increasing its water supply, EPWU plans to conserve and recycle more water, desalinate agricultural drain water, and in 2018 open an $82 million advanced-purification plant to clean 10 million gallons per day from the Bustamante Wastewater Treatment plant.

“The cost of water is going to increase as we look at these alternative water supply strategies rather than continuing to mine local fresh groundwater,” Montoya adds. “EPWU will continue to pursue strategic water rights/land acquisitions … as needed, to meet the future water supply needs identified in the Far West Texas Water Plan.”

Source: El Paso Times

California Water Agency Faces $1.5M Fine
California regulators have issued a $1.5 million fine to the Byron Bethany Irrigation District, alleging that the water district illegally pumped water for farmers and thousands of homes.

This fine would be the first penalty levied against a longtime water-rights holder during the four-year drought, reports.

Byron Bethany serves about 160 farms and a population of 15,000. As one of the few hundred holders of pre-1914 water rights, the district was warned by the state in June that there wasn’t enough water in the creeks and rivers to honor their claim.


Dragon Flies Put Water Utility’s Plans on Hold
A group of residents in an Illinois water district are placing limitations on its water utility — specifically, an endangered species of dragonfly.

In order to protect the dragonfly species — the Hine’s emerald dragonfly — that has made Lockport, Illionois, their home, regulators are “limiting where ... engineers can dig for public water wells,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

City officials including Mayor Steve Streit are frustrated with the restrictions. According to the Tribune’s report, “(Mayor Streit) said he’d like to know where state and federal officials would stand if it came between the dragonfly and people having access to drinking water.”

Source: Chicago Tribune


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