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Recycled-water project would expand reach in Marin, Napa, Sonoma counties

NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
View the phase 2 draft EIR/EIS

Four public hearings are scheduled on the draft EIR/EIS:

Monday, May 7, 2018, 6:30–8 p.m.: American Canyon City Hall Council Chambers, 4381 Broadway, Suite 201, American Canyon, CA
Wednesday, May 9, 2018, 6:30–8 p.m.: San Rafael Community Center Auditorium, 618 B St., San Rafael, CA
Thursday, May 10, 2018, 6:30–8 p.m.: Petaluma Community Center, Craft Room 1, 320 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, CA
Monday, May 14, 2018, 6:30–8 p.m.: Sonoma Community Center, Room 110, 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma, CA

Submit comments by 5 p.m. May 18.

The public comment period opens Wednesday for a proposed expansion of the use of recycled water in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties over the next seven years.

Over next 45 days, ending May 18, input will be accepting input on the second phase of the North Bay Water Reuse Project, which involves construction and operation of treatment capacity improvements, distribution facilities and storage facilities (seasonal and operational) to provide recycled water for environmental, agricultural and municipal reuse, according to the North Bay Water Reuse Authority announcement. Pipelines and pumping facilities would be built along existing roadways. Treatment and storage facilities would be located near existing wastewater-treatment plants.

The proposed project would provide 4,885 acre-feet per year of recycled water through construction of 20.6 miles of pipeline, one additional pump station, 10 acre-feet of storage and 4.87 million gallons per day of tertiary-treated wastewater. Work is planned by Novato, Marin Municipal, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma, Napa and American Canyon sanitation districts.

The water-reuse agency covers the watershed that drains into the north end of San Pablo Bay, an area of about 318 square miles in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.

Public hearings on the draft environmental-impact document for phase 2 are set for May 7, 9, 10 and 14.

Submit comments in writing to: Anne Crealock, Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403 or via email to Phase2EIR@nbwra.org.

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Why some western water agencies are writing 100-year water plans 

Jerry Redfern, NewsDeeply

The plan calls for increased water conservation through groundwater management (including recharging the aquifer beneath Albuquerque), surface-water management (including protecting current water rights and buying more in the future), watershed restoration, water recycling and reuse programs and stormwater capture and storage.

In February of this year, the largest water district in a state with little water enacted a plan that attempts to manage that increasingly fickle resource for 100 years.

The plan, Water: 2120, is the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) in New Mexico’s blueprint to direct water procurement, protection and use for the next century.

“This really came out of eight to 10 of us sitting around in a room every Wednesday morning and talking this through,” said Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager at ABCWUA and one of the lead planners on the project.

It’s common for water agencies to develop plans looking 20 to 40 years ahead, or in some cases 50 to 60 years. And ABCWUA, of course, has had planning documents in the past, the last one looking 60 years out. But “this is the first one to take into account climate change,” Yuhas said, and “it’s the first one to look out 100 years.” Plus, it covers everything from watersheds to infrastructure to household use.

Other Western water groups are also working on long-range plans. Santa Fe is looking closely at Water: 2120. Next year, Austin Water plans to unveil Water Forward, which it calls, “a water plan for the next century.”

And in Arizona, the Office of Assured and Adequate Water Supply Program at the Department of Water Resources requires new developments in certain metropolitan areas to show they have physical and legal access to water for 100 years.

Read more at: Why Some Western Water Agencies Are Writing 100-Year Water Plans — Water Deeply

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Healdsburg may expand water reuse program

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Healdsburg is moving toward expanding the use of its recycled wastewater as more grape growers express interest in its use for vineyard irrigation.

The City Council has taken an initial step of expanding the area where Healdsburg delivers reclaimed water, requiring a new two-mile pipeline from the wastewater treatment plant to serve approximately 600 acres between Westside Road and the Russian River to the south.

Some vineyard managers there are eager to get access to the water, and Healdsburg — which has been under pressure for years to reduce discharges of that water into the Russian River during summer months — is ready to oblige, to the point of footing the approximate $500,000 construction cost of the pipeline.

“We’re under a mandate to not release water — tertiary, highly treated water — into the Russian River five months of the year,” Mayor Tom Chambers said Friday. “We need to come up with various ways to achieve that and one way is to provide water for irrigation to vineyards interested in doing so.”

Read more at: Healdsburg may expand water reuse program | The Press Democrat

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Napa Sanitation is doubling its deliveries of recycled water

Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER

Napa Sanitation District has new, multi-million dollar plans to slake the county’s growing thirst for recycled water.

The district has almost completed $20 million in projects to double its recycled water output. It’s also working on a $14 million Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay pipeline and a $20 million Carneros line to deliver this increased output to more rural homes and vineyards.

Once all of this is done, the district each year will be turning out 3,600 acre feet of recycled water good enough to irrigate vineyards, landscaping, parks and golf courses, though not to drink. An acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre a foot deep.

As an encore, the district will try to increase this amount to 4,500 acre feet over the coming decade. A $33.2 million package of proposed projects to help meet that goal should soon be under the microscope of an environmental impact report.

“There’s more demand for recycled water in Napa than we can provide,” district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Tucker said.

Read more at: Napa Sanitation is doubling its deliveries of recycled water

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Drugging the environment

Megan Scudellari, THE SCIENTIST

“All [pharmaceuticals], by design, are meant to elicit a biological response,” says the US Geological Survey’s Dana Kolpin, chief of the organization’s Emerging Contaminants Project. “We need to know what the environmental consequences are.”

In the fall of 2012, PhD student Hendrik Wolschke leaned over the side of a boat on the Elbe River in Northern Germany and lifted a stainless steel bucket from the water’s depths. Pulling it aboard, he set the sloshing bucket next to a pile of empty plastic bottles.

Once he’d filled them with the river water, Wolschke packed the bottles into coolers for transport southeast to the chemistry laboratory of his doctoral advisor, Klaus Kümmerer, at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. There, the bottles joined water samples collected from all around Germany: the North Sea, drainage streams from wastewater treatment plants, even drinking water straight from municipal taps.

Each sample was tested for the most widely prescribed antidiabetic drug in the world—metformin, which treats high blood sugar by suppressing glucose production in the liver. Humans do not metabolize the drug, so within 24 hours of being swallowed, metformin is excreted from the body essentially unchanged.

Because of its high prescription rate—the U.S. alone dispensed 76.9 million metformin prescriptions in 2014—it’s not surprising that the drug is abundant in the environment. Metformin was present in every water sample Kümmerer’s team tested, including tap water, at concentrations exceeding environmental safety levels proposed by an international Rhine River Basin agency by 50 percent. When publishing the results in 2014, Kümmerer and his coauthors concluded that the drug is likely “distributed over a large fraction of the world’s potable water sources and oceans.”

That sounds melodramatic, but he may be right, and the problem is not limited to metformin. Rebecca Klaper and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee recently measured concentrations of pharmaceuticals in Lake Michigan, where researchers had speculated that any drugs that were present would be highly dilute and not detectable. On the contrary, Klaper’s team found evidence of 32 pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the water and 30 in the lake’s sediment. Fourteen of these were measured at concentrations considered to be of medium or high risk to the ecosystem, based on data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other researchers. Metformin topped the list, at concentrations of concern even 3 kilometers off the shores of Milwaukee.

Read more at: Drugging the Environment | The Scientist Magazine®

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California’s drought spurring gray-water recycling at home 

Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Showering during California’s drought is a guilt-free experience for homeowners Catarina Negrin and Noah Friedman.

The Berkeley couple — she runs a pre-school, he’s an architect — are early adopters of a home plumbing do-over that’s becoming more popular during California’s record four-year dry stretch.

California, like many states, long required all water used in homes to be piped out with the sewage, fearing health risks if water recycling is done clumsily.

Since 2010, however, the increasingly dry state has come around, and now even encourages the reuse of so-called gray water, which typically includes the gently-used runoff from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs and washing machines.

As mandatory conservation kicked in statewide this month, forcing many of California’s 38 million people to face giving up on greenery, these recycling systems have become attractive options in new homes, right along with granite countertops. California Building Industry Association executive Robert Raymer rattles off the drought-conscious top builders that now routinely offer in-home water recycling.

And California’s building codes are catching up as well, allowing owners of existing homes to create the simplest systems for the safest gray water without a permit.

So while others think about hauling buckets to catch stray drips from their sinks and tubs, Negrin and Friedman can relax: Each gallon they use in the shower means another for the butterflies that duck and bob over their vegetable garden, for the lemon tree shading the yard, and for two strutting backyard chickens busily investigating it all.

“I love a lush garden, and so it seems like why not, right? I could have a lush garden if it doesn’t go into the sewer system,” Negrin said. “So, yes, “I’m going to take a shower.”

Because pathogens swimming in untreated gray water can transmit disease if humans ingest them, most modern health and building codes have long made recycling it impractical. Many families did it anyway, without official oversight or permits. Greywater Action, a group that promotes household water recycling and trains families and installers on the do’s and don’ts, estimates that more than a million Californians had illegal systems before plumbing codes were updated.

But interest in doing it the right way has soared since April 1, when Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25-percent cut in water use by cities and towns. Palo Alto gray-water system installer Sassan Golafshan saw his website crash within a day from the surge in traffic.

Read more at: California’s Drought Spurring Water Recycling at Home | Sci-Tech Today

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California looks Down Under for drought advice

Kristen Gelineau & Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

California’s longest and sharpest drought on record has its increasingly desperate water stewards looking for solutions in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent.

The struggle to survive with little water is a constant thread in the history of Australia, whose people now view drought as an inevitable feature of the land poet Dorothea Mackellar dubbed “a sunburnt country.”

Four years into a drought forcing mandatory 25 percent water cutbacks this year, Californians have taken a keen interest in how Australia coped with its “Big Dry,” a torturous drought that stretched across the millennium, from the late 1990s through 2012. Australia’s city dwellers had to accept tough water restrictions as cattle collapsed and died in barren fields, monstrous wildfires killed 173 people, and scores of farms went under.

But by the time the rains returned, Australia had fundamentally changed how it handles water, following landmark reforms to more carefully mete out allocations and cutbacks. Today, Australia treats water as a commodity to be conserved and traded. The system also better measures what water is available, and efficiency programs have cut average daily water use to 55 gallons, compared with 105 gallons per day for each Californian.

The hard-earned lesson is that long droughts are here to stay, says drought-policy expert Linda Botterill of the University of Canberra.”We can expect longer, deeper and more severe droughts in Australia, and I believe the same applies in the U.S.,” Botterill says. “As a result, we need to develop strategies that are not knee-jerk responses, but that are planned risk-management strategies.”

That’s why California water officials routinely cite Australia’s experience and invite Australian water ministers to come speak. It’s also why Felicia Marcus, who runs California’s Water Resources Control Board, can talk in minute detail about the stormwater-capture system watering soccer fields in Perth.

But Californians may find Australia’s medicine tough to swallow. Australians are accustomed to living in a dry land, expect government intervention in a crisis and largely support making sacrifices for the common good. For much of their history, many Californians have enjoyed abundant water, or were able to divert enough of it to turn deserts green, and highly paid lawyers ensure that property rights remain paramount.

“The outstanding feature of the California drought is the way in which it’s been allowed to become incredibly serious, with — from an Australian perspective — an absolutely pathetic and nominal sort of response,” said Daniel Connell, an environmental policy expert at The Australian National University. “The main difference between California and Australia is they’re dominated by a legalistic approach and dominated by rights, and we’ve got a much more public-policy approach.”

Australia hardly has all the answers. Some of its drought responses faced sharp criticism, and some experts believe Australia already is losing some of its gains. Still, Americans suffering their own “Big Dry” may benefit from some comparisons:

WHOSE WATER IS IT:

AUSTRALIA: Too many water entitlements had been allocated for Australia’s main river system, which winds thousands of miles across four states that produce a third of the nation’s food. Overuse and drought so depleted the Murray-Darling Basin that by 2002, the mouth of the Murray had to be dredged to keep it flowing into the sea.

Australia responded by capping entitlements, canceling inactive licenses and buying back hundreds of billions of gallons from irrigators to restore the rivers and sell to other users when rain is plentiful. Water use is strictly metered to ensure license holders use only what they are allocated. Precise measurements also track the availability of water, which affects its price as shares are bought and sold on a water trading market worth $1.2 billion a year in U.S. dollars.

The amount of water represented in entitlements doled out to farms, industries and towns depends on what’s in the river; in drought, it can dwindle to virtually nothing. This is where water trading becomes critical. License holders can buy or sell their entitlements to others, keeping agriculture afloat. A farmer of a thirsty crop like cotton might not profit when both the share of water and the price of cotton is low. But if an orchard grower in desperate need buys that water, the cotton farmer can live off the sale while the orchard owner reaps a profitable harvest.

CALIFORNIA: Gov. Jerry Brown calls the state’s system of divvying up water rights, which dates to the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, “somewhat archaic.” The largest state economy in the U.S. still follows the maxim “first in time, first in right,” which gives overarching priority to nearly 4,000 so-called senior water rights holders who staked claims before 1914 or own acreage abutting a river or stream. In drought, authorities must completely deny water to most other claimants before they touch the water of senior water-rights holders. San Francisco, for example, has stronger water rights than many other cities because in 1902, Mayor James Phelan hiked up the Sierra Nevada and tacked a water claim to an oak tree along the bank of the Tuolumne River.

“Revising the water-rights system is a thermo-nuclear issue in California,” John Laird, California’s secretary for natural resources, said last month. If the state’s water shortages go on long enough, however, at some point “almost everything has to be on the table.”

 

For more comparisons between Australia and California’s water policies go to: California looks Down Under for drought advice | The State The State

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Grape growers could alleviate Occidental’s wastewater issues

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Occidental’s embattled wastewater treatment system needs a multimillion-dollar upgrade completed within three years, and nearby grape growers are likely part of the solution.

If that plan — expected to cost $5 million to $6 million and bump up rates for the sewer district’s roughly 100 customers — doesn’t work out, the small west county community’s wastewater might be trucked out of the area for treatment, officials said.

The proposed solution, including improvements to the existing treatment plant on Occidental Road and a pipeline carrying wastewater to a vineyard on Morelli Lane, will be reviewed at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Union Hotel in Occidental.

Residents will have a chance to comment on the potential impacts of the project as part of the determination of whether it will require a full environmental impact report.

Because the proposed project would be on property already used by the system and on county roads, the county hopes to issue a “negative declaration” and avoid the time and expense of a full report, said Cordel Stillman, Sonoma County Water Agency chief deputy engineer.

Occidental’s system, one of eight operated by the Water Agency, faces a Jan. 31, 2018 state deadline to stop holding treated wastewater in a pond next to the treatment plant, used as a storage reservoir since 1977.

Read more via Grape growers could alleviate Occidental’s wastewater issues | The Press Democrat.

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Grape growers grappling with prolonged water supply issues

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To get a sense of how the state’s three-year drought has created a new normal in the wine industry, consider the truck that Rued Vineyards purchased this year.

Almost daily, Tom Rued would drive the stainless-steel tanker, with a capacity of 6,400 gallons, about 15 miles to a city of Healdsburg filling station to load up on recycled wastewater.

The entire operation takes about five hours, including the round trip between the Alexander Valley vineyard and the plant, the time filling up the tanker, and offloading the water into a drip irrigation system to keep 19 acres of sauvignon blanc vines moist enough to make it through another harvest.

Rued Vineyards has been pressed into such a drastic action after state water regulators this spring curtailed some of the vineyard’s water rights in the upper Russian River watershed along with more than 600 other junior water-rights holders. Officials with the state Water Resources Control Board have been following up with growers to make sure such orders are being followed, but no enforcement actions have yet been taken, said board spokesman George Kostyrko.

via Drought fears in Wine Country | The Press Democrat.

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California water bond headed to voters

Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

California voters will be asked to authorize $7.5 billion to bolster the state’s water supply, infrastructure and ecosystems in November, as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday struck a long-sought deal to move a new water bond to the ballot.

An extraordinary drought that has strained California’s water supply spurred a concerted push for a new water bond. Lawmakers moved to replace an $11.1 billion previously slated for the ballot, convinced that voters would reject it.

Instead, voters will see a $7.5 billion measure that contains significantly less money for Delta restoration. The final sum represents a compromise both from Republicans, who called for $3 billion for surface storage projects, and from Brown, who sought an overall total closer to $6 billion.

via Water bond headed to voters – Capitol Alert – The Sacramento Bee.