Changes to proposed groundwater replenishment project open to public comment

by Sara Rubin, Monterey County Weekly, 12/14/14

Weather like this can almost make you forget there’s a serious water supply problem around here.

But California American Water still faces a 2016 deadline to cut back on pumping from the Carmel River by 70 percent, and each of three components of its water supply project are trickling forward.

One contentious project, groundwater replenishment, is estimated to provide up to 3,500 acre-feet of water per year to Cal Am customers. It would come from wastewater—the stuff that flows down the drain or flushes down the toilet—that flows to the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency’s plant in Marina for treatment.

After months of negotiations over who is entitled to how much recycled wastewater, MRWPCA and other parties have advanced to “an agreement to agree” on how to fairly divvy it up.

That agreement is one feature of a supplement to MRWPCA’s environmental documents, which was published and opened to public comment this week. (It’s a notice of preparation of an environmental impact report; the full EIR with more specifics on the project will come at a later date).

The key changes to the project include:

The sourcewater agreement, which pledges up to 3,500 acre-feet per year of highly treated recycled water, and up to 5,292 acre-feet per year to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use for irrigation of Castroville-area crops;

In wet years, injecting up to 1,000 acre-feet per year into the Seaside Basin as a drought reserve;

A new pipeline for intake from Tembladero Slough, which is part of the Reclamation Ditch system;

Inclusion of washwater from Salinas salad-washing plants, which would first be mixed with municipal wastewater form Salina and delivered through an existing pipe;

Sharing two new pipelines Cal Am is already planning to build in conjunction with its proposed desalination plant, meaning MRWPCA doesn’t have to build new pipelines of its own to convey the recycled water.

Another note: The project is now called “Pure Water,” which might help the MRWPCA accomplish one of its aims: to get the public comfortable with the idea of drinking the stuff we flush down the toilet.

The addition to the notice of preparation of an EIR is available online or in hard copy at various public libraries. To submit comments, email Engineer Bob Holden at The comment period closes on Jan. 8.