The fountain at Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall reflects the sunset. (File photo)

Santa Monica is three years behind schedule for water independence due to delays in obtaining permits for some of the proposed plans.

The city is using about 20 percent less imported water than it did in 2011, when City Council set a goal of achieving water self-sufficiency by 2020. At a recent Council meeting, staff said changes to state laws have also presented a challenge.

Staff has redesigned parts of the plan because new state regulations require the removal of certain chemicals from drinking water making treatment more difficult and expensive, said Alex Nazarchuk, the City’s water resources manager.

Importing water from The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is more expensive than using local water and the gap will only continue to widen. MWD is funding $11 billion of the California WaterFix project to build two tunnels to transport water from the Sacramento River Delta to Southern California and will start charging higher rates for water to cover the cost of the project, said Dean Kubani, Santa Monica’s chief sustainability officer.

Relying on local water will also make the city less vulnerable to the effects of future droughts. The Colorado River, MWD’s main water supply, is going through its longest drought in recorded history and could be subject to rationing by mid-2020. Water costs throughout Southern California would rise significantly and municipalities might be left scrambling to meet the demand for water.

Staff said that after 2023, Santa Monica will be more prepared to handle the effects of climate change on its water supply than the rest of the region.

“I cannot think of another city in Southern California that has gone from 100 percent imported water to self-sufficiency, and that’s what’s so extraordinary about this plan,” said Mark Gold, head of the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment.

Even if a drought hits the Santa Monica Mountains and depletes local groundwater, the city will have backup options: 35 percent of its water supply will come from sources other than groundwater, such as recycled water and rainwater. In extreme cases, the City could even drill new wells in the coastal sub-basin, Navarchuk said.

The City reduced total water usage by 20 percent during the 2011-2017 drought, largely by enforcing a water-use allowance for residents and businesses and incentivizing residents to tear up and replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping.

By 2023, water conservation will decrease the demand for imported water by 38 percent. The City will focus on diminishing commercial water use, particularly downtown, and continue subsidizing sustainable landscapes and retrofitting residential plumbing.

Three projects at a combined cost of $78 million will help cover the rest of Santa Monica’s water demand and reduce water imports by 60 percent.

Restoring and operating the Olympic well field will cost $40 million over the next 30 years, using funds collected from settlement agreements with companies sued for contaminating the City’s water supply.

Expanding the water capacity and making production more efficient at the Arcadia Water Treatment Plant is expected to cost $30 million, and an additional $8 million will go toward a new groundwater well and other improvements.

The City will seek funding from several state and federal sources, including MWD and the California Department of Water Resources. Kubani said funding the City is seeking will bring implementation costs down.

“There are some upfront costs now, but it will pay off in long-term cost benefits for ratepayers and gives us much more control over prices and our water supply and its future,” Kubani said.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Alex Nazarchuk’s name.

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  1. Floating Desalinization Plants Basic Foundation…
    The world shipping markets have mothballed Tankers and Cargo Ships.
    We have large numbers of Naval Ships that have been put into a non functioning status….Mothballed.
    A water production flotilla, from the above mentioned Shipping Markets and U.S. Navy mothball fleets can be created…..
    Advantages …..
    1. Production of Usable Water.
    2. Enhance food production in our country and around the world.
    3. Mobility of the fleet.
    4. Short term water storage.
    5. Source is recycled.
    6. Source is readily obtainable.
    7. Availability of distribution points.
    8. Prevent the next major fight that can lead to a world war for water … a World Wide necessity.
    9. Creation of jobs to enhance our water infrastructure.
    10. Prevent the next major fight for food and increase the available acreage for food production.
    We should take some of the larger ships and convert them to a desalinization function. Aircraft carriers and battle ships can be converted for this operation. Many of these ships already possess the Desalinization Capability.
    A flotilla of desalinization plants along our west coast. Think about this ….There would be locations for the restored mothballed Naval Ships to hook up to water distribution points, comprised of the restored mothballed Shipping Containers and Tankers. These points would then be linked to pipeline distribution points to either store water in larger already existing locations or distribute the water to locations up and down the California Coastline.
    This concept can be expanded to be used in the Gulf of Mexico to provide water to our areas of vital food production in the center of our country.
    Some of the hook up locations would include … our military bases, water recycling plants, power plant locations.
    This project would require the investment of our country to invest along with coastline states, and private industry.
    The federal government would provide the flotilla…mothballed ships, the states would provide funds for the connections of the flotilla to land based distribution points along with storage facilities and pipelines to distribute the water.
    The Shipping Industry would supply their mothballed ships.
    This is also a reminder that many of our ships in mothballs already have water recycling systems, and desalinization capabilities. Now is the time to use these capabilities along our Pacific coast line. Once we get this concept to work in the United States surely we can expand the concept to other locations around the world.

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