Category Archives: In the News

Pure Water Monterey Wins WateReuse CA Award

Monterey One Water Chair Rudy Fisher and MPWMD Chair Andrew Clarke join Monterey One Water GM Paul Scuito and representatives of WateReuse CA at the Annual Conference

Pure Water Monterey has been honored with the WateReuse Association of California’s Medium Agency of the Year Award.  The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD)  along with project partner Monterey One Water was presented the award at the Association’s 2018 Annual Conference.

The WateReuse Association is a nationally recognized industry advocacy group that promotes the development and expansion of water reuse, recharge and purification projects in North America. The Medium Agency of the year award recognizes projects and their agencies that produce between 1,000 and 5,000 acre-feet of beneficial reuse per year. The Pure Water Monterey Project will begin delivery of 3.500 acre feet of purified water in mid to late 2019.



EIR notice fleshes out groundwater replenishment project details

By Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald, 12/18/14

Marina — A year and a half after environmental review began, the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Agency has released a more detailed description of the proposed Pure Water Monterey Groundwater Replenishment Project for public review.

Designed to convert wastewater into highly treated potable water for storage and later use on the Monterey Peninsula, the recycled water project has been fleshed out as a result of engineering and technical studies, as well as a preliminary source water agreement for the project between five parties since the environmental review process began in mid-2013.

That prompted release of a supplemental notice of preparation for the project’s environmental impact report that spells out the additional detail involving the project’s use of various wastewater sources, a drought reserve plan, and a revised facilities plan.

Water Pollution Control Agency general manager Keith Israel said the document was released to avoid any delay as a result of legal challenge to the project’s environmental review process. He added the release won’t affect the project schedule calling for the draft environmental impact report to be released in March.

“The last thing we wanted was to get slowed down,” Israel said.

The supplemental notice is available for public review at the agency offices, 5 Harris Court, Building D, in Monterey’s Ryan Ranch, and online at, as well as at public libraries in Monterey, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Seaside, Marina, Salinas and Castroville.

Public comments are being accepted through Jan. 8.

A definitive source water agreement consisting of a series of bi-lateral agreements between the five parties is under negotiation and is still expected to be finished by March, according to Israel. Others close to the talks have suggested a final conclusion may stretch into April or later.

In addition to the agency and Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the Monterey County water resources agency, the Marina Coast Water District, and the city of Salinas are all parties to the preliminary agreement and the ongoing talks.

The project proposal calls for producing 3,500 acre-feet of the highly treated water per year for injection into the Seaside basin as a supplement to the Peninsula water supply project led by California American Water’s desalination project. It would also produce up to 5,292 acre-feet of water per year for farmland irrigation as part of the broad agreement to allow the use of Peninsula municipal wastewater and urban stormwater runoff, agricultural produce wash water, and contaminated surface water from the Salinas-area Reclamation Ditch and Blanco Drain for the project.

Key updates to the project description include:

  • Specific volume of treated water for farmland irrigation as part of the project’s source water pact, allowing an evaluation of the cumulative impact of tapping various wastewater sources.
  • A new drought reserve, which would provide for depositing an additional 200 acre-feet of the treated potable water into the Seaside basin during wet years up to a total of 1,000 acre-feet. The water would be used to supplement Cal Am’s potable water needs during dry years, avoiding the need to tap source water designated for farmland irrigation.
  • Project-specific facilities upgrades and operational changes involving the Salinas Valley Reclamation Project treatment plant capacity, the Tembladero Slough (Rec Ditch) diversion location, the method of conveying ag produce wash water from the Salinas city treatment facility, the location of injection into the Seaside basin, and inclusion of Cal Am’s proposed new water distribution pipelines.

Meanwhile, Israel announced last week that he plans to retire in June, about when the final project EIR is due to be released, after 26 years with the agency.

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.

Monterey Peninsula faces tough choices to meet water deadlines and needs

By Larry Sokoloff, California Planning & Development Report, 10/15/14

From many vantage points, the Monterey Peninsula looks idyllic. But it’s always been a mess when it comes to water politics.

Throw in a long stalemate on solutions among the stakeholders, along with a disliked private water utility, administrative and judicial orders to cut back existing water supplies, no connections to state water – and a drought – and it’s hard to see a clear path out of this morass.

Local leaders say they’ve come up with three possible solutions in the past year: building a large desalination plant, increasing use of recycled wastewater, and using winter overflows from the Carmel River to recharge the nearby Seaside Basin. Still, they’ve got some tight deadlines to meet in order to escape a dire future with less water. And the desalination plant, arguably the most difficult piece of the puzzle, is the key, as it will produce six times as much water as recapturing winter overflows from the Carmel River.

Desalination could be a panacea for the approximately 110,000 residents of the region, which includes Monterey, Carmel, and Seaside, along with unincorporated areas like Pebble Beach and the Carmel Valley. But other than a few small projects, little progress has been made in  the past decade. A proposed $400 million regional saltwater desalination project near Marina (north of the Peninsula), to be run by the local water utility, would offset proposed cutbacks in other water supplies. But it won’t be built for at least five years.

Already a Sword of Damocles hangs over the region’s head, with water cutbacks set to occur between 2015 and 2017.

The newest entrant into the race to find a solution was the 2012 formation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) by the six cities on the Monterey Peninsula, called the Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority.

“The challenge has been that there hasn’t been a consensus on what the water supply should look like,” said Carmel Mayor Jason Burnett, who is on the JPA. Burnett said the consensus has been reached on the three solutions in the past year.

California American Water, or Cal-Am, the local water utility, is supposed to cut its water supply from the Carmel River by 70%, according to Henrietta Stern, a project manager with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD). That should take place by 2017, although local officials are hoping that the state will push back that deadline if progress has been made on local projects.

At the same time, the region already has to cut back its water usage to comply with another court ruling that requires it to replenish groundwater in the Seaside basin.

In 2010, the region could count on 3,300 acre feet from that source, but has had to pump out less since then. In 2015, it will only be able to pump out 2,300 acre feet of water, and by 2021, it can only take about 1,500 acre feet of water, according to David Stoldt, general manager of the MPWMD.

While desalination looks like it could be a savior, desalination proposals in the area have come and gone in recent years. A previous desalination project fell apart in 2012. And other battles have also taken place: residents tried and failed in a June ballot measure to take over privately-owned Cal-Am.

Marina, which sits to the north of the Monterey Peninsula, has its own water supply from the Salinas River basin. That water is not available to the Monterey Peninsula. In the 1990s, Marina built its own desalination plant, designed to produce 300 acre feet of water in a year, That is only enough to provide one-third of the city’s water each year. And the project is unused because energy costs were too high to run it, said Marina’s Mayor Bruce Delgado.

Monterey Peninsula officials are seeking a regional facility that can serve a much larger population. But they are looking to Marina and the area nearby for a large desalination plant because the geology to the north  makes it easier to drill, Delgado explained.

The MPWMD is currently backing two desalination proposals: one by Cal-Am one mile from the city of Marina, and another  proposed by private developers in Moss Landing. The Marina  plant would produce 7,000 to 9,000 acre feet of water per year, which is slightly less than the cutbacks expected at the Carmel River by the start of 2017.

“The problem is the large desalination project won’t be online by then,” Stern said.

Current estimates are that the Marina project won’t be done until 2019. And the 2019 date is a guess, since the city of Marina is refusing to allow Cal-Am to drill a slant well to test if the desalination project is even feasible there. The slant well would test the viability of planned beach well intakes, according to the Monterey Herald.

“Those types of delays have plagued the projects,” Stern said.

Well drilling for the desalination plant is already in dispute at the Superior Court and the state level. In September, Cal-Am filed an eminent domain lawsuit to gain access to a Marina site for slant well drilling. In addition, the California Coastal Commission takes up the matter at its November 12 meeting. Burnett explained that the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the portion of the well that will be drilled under the Pacific Ocean.

Delgado said that while the actual desalination plant is outside the city limits, the slant wells are proposed for a site within the city of Marina.

Delgado said the Marina City Council turned down the slant well drilling on a 3-2 vote because it wanted more environmental documents produced. “The city council majority is in favor of more information before the test slant wells can be drilled,” he said.

Another proposed desalination plant near Moss Landing might be built first, Stern said. It would rely on deeper water from the ocean that wouldn’t have the same impacts on fish and ocean life. Unlike the Marina project, no environmental impact report has been started on the Moss Landing project.

Water politics on the Monterey Peninsula have always been complicated. MPWMD was created by state legislation in 1978 to manage water issues, develop additional supplies and oversee agencies that provide water.

In 1995, the State Water Resources Control Board ruled that Cal-Am did not have valid rights to 70% of the water it delivered to the area. Most of the water came from the Carmel River. In 2009, the state set a deadline at the start of 2017 to reduce withdrawals from the Carmel River. Stoldt said that two of the species that live in the river, the steelhead trout and the red-legged frog, are both listed as federal endangered species. The presence of both makes it difficult to build new dams on the river.

Stoldt said recycling the peninsula region’s wastewater may provide an additional 3,000 to 5,000 acre feet to the local area. An EIR on the program, called Pure Water Monterey, should be done in 2015, he said, and the program may be in operation by 2017.

Official attempts to get an extension on the 2017 deadline for reducing Carmel River water can be expected in 2015.  Any extensions would come from the State Water Resources Control Board.

“The hope is to point to the program being underway and the state providing some relief,” Stoldt said.

Water conservation efforts have also led to reductions in use in recent years as well, with residents saving over 1,000 acre feet of water a year, Stoldt said, and even more water conservation may be required of local residents.

She said there will be economic impacts if the region is left with water cutbacks and few new sources of water. “If there’s only enough water for residents, how does a hotel, restaurant or an aquarium stay in business?”

“Over the past few decades there is likely no local issue that has been more debated, politicized voted on, and finally, as frustrating,” wrote Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala, in a recent article on water. “…Desal has to be part of the mix.”

Proposition 1, the state water bond measure on the November ballot, may provide some financial assistance to Monterey County if it passes. An analysis of the $7.5 billion statewide measure by MPWCD says that it includes $725 million statewide for water recycling, desalination and potable reuse.

Agreement to agree: All six parties approve MOU to hash out groundwater replenishment plan

by Sara Rubin, Monterey County Weekly, 10/10/14

Six government boards, six approvals.  That’s remarkable consensus in the realm of local government—particularly when it comes to water.

After months of negotiations, representatives of various interests came to a memorandum of understanding concerning potential sources for expanding the recycled water supply out of the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency’s treatment plant in Marina.

The project, “Monterey Pure Water,” could conceivably provide 3,900-acre-feet-a-year of water to the parched Monterey Peninsula, meaning California American Water could build a smaller (and less costly) desalination plant.

The hang-up has been a battle over who gets how much of the recycled water—the stuff that we flush down the toilet or that runs down the drain. The existing supply of recycled water produced at the Marina plant provides seasonal irrigation for about 12,000 acres of North County farmland.

Representatives of each negotiating agency brought an MOU back to their respective boards, and all have approved the MOU within the past three weeks.

The Monterey County Water Resources Agency signed on Sept. 22, and the Pollution Control Agency followed on Sept. 29.

Then on Monday this week, Marina Coast Water District signed on, followed by the county Board of Supervisors and Salinas City Council Tuesday, then finally by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District on Wednesday.

In final negotiations last month, Water Management District GM Dave Stoldt, the facilitator, offered up this wisdom to competing parties: “This never says it’s an agreement to agree, it’s an agreement to negotiate.”

Monterey County, agencies close in on groundwater deal

Board lauds cooperation among several agencies

By Jim Johnson, Monterey County Herald, 10/8/14

SALINAS — Praising “historic” cooperation among agencies as a harbinger of future water management efforts, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously signed off on a deal to provide water for the proposed Monterey Peninsula groundwater replenishment project.

The supervisors voted 4-0 to approve the five-party memorandum of understanding, which sets a six-month framework for negotiating an agreement on water sources for the recycled water proposal, expiring at the end of March. Supervisor Dave Potter called the agreement historic and suggested it could be the start of a “more global discussion” on water management for the entire region, adding that it could help build trust between agencies who typically haven’t worked successfully together.

The deal, between the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, the city of Salinas and the Marina Coast Water District contemplates tapping Peninsula wastewater and storm runoff, and Salinas-area produce wash water and contaminated runoff to help meet regional water needs.

Some water would be steered to a project known as Pure Water Monterey. Once treated, that water would be pumped into and stored in a Seaside aquifer, joining with California American Water’s desalination plant as part of the Peninsula water supply project, which is designed to help replace state-mandated pumping reductions from the Carmel River.

The deal would also provide additional irrigation water for the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project, an existing water reclamation project.

Salinas city official Gary Petersen noted the talks began with major disagreements between the Peninsula and Salinas Valley and the threat of arbitration, and nearly fell apart before finally reaching a conclusion. Petersen said the agreement was proof that “we can build bridges.”

On Tuesday, Monterey County Farm Bureau executive director Norm Groot and Grower-Shipper Association representative Abby Taylor-Silva urged the supervisors to approve the agreement, though they also noted much work needs to be done before a final deal is in place. They called for full public involvement in the process.

Work has already begun on setting up talks on the definitive agreement, according to Peninsula water district general manager Dave Stoldt, who noted the complexity of a final deal that must include several side deals between the parties governing everything from a delivery pipeline to a recycled water purchase agreement.

The preliminary agreement includes “off-ramps” allowing parties to back away should any deal-breaker arise, as would the final deal. They include the results of the project’s environmental study, a rate study, a third-party review and mandated tax assessment proceeding. The memorandum of understanding also indemnifies parties that opt out from any project costs.

The deal has already been approved by the county water agency, Pollution Control Agency and Marina Coast boards, and the Salinas City Council was expected to consider the agreement Tuesday night, with the Peninsula water district board set to consider the preliminary deal, and a resumption of spending on the project, during a special meeting Wednesday.

Supervisor Lou Calcagno recused himself from the board’s vote because he owns property that uses recycled water.

Five parties negotiating over recycled wastewater supply near agreement

by Sara Rubin, Monterey County Weekly, 9/19/14

It’s easy to experience a sense of deja vu when it comes to Monterey County politics. The issues have a way of repeating themselves.

No different when the water supply in question is the stuff that runs down our drains or gets flushed down the toilet.

Five parties have been fiercely negotiating for who gets how much treated water out of the regional water treatment plant in Marina. The ferocity is perhaps a sign of the times: California is parched, and even wastewater looks enticing.

There’s also, of course, the impending 2016 state deadline for California American Water to stop over-pumping the Carmel River and provide an alternate water source for the Monterey Peninsula. If the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, which runs the water treatment plant, can expand its water treatment program, they’ll help out Peninsula water users with groundwater replenishment, or what they’re called “Monterey Pure Water.” If that project gets off the ground, Cal Am can build a smaller, less costly, desal plant.

But there’s been tension since the beginning over whether agricultural interests—which currently use recycled wastewater for irrigating Castroville-area fields—will play nice with the Peninsula.

Friday morning, 17 representatives of various interests—the Pollution Control Agency, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, Monterey County Water Resources Agency, agriculture, Marina Coast Water District and the city of Salinas—met to try and hash out a memorandum of understanding between all the parties.

The draft MOU, which has been in the works for going on two years, heads to the Water Resources Agency board of directors for approval on Monday. The boards and council of the other respectives parties (MPWMD, Salinas and Marina Coast) each have to approve the MOU as well for the project to be viable.

The PCA and Water Management District have spent about $10 million so far on studies and analysis. They’re at work on an environmental impact report for Pure Water Monterey, and need to complete it by May for Public Utilities Commission approval.

To do that, they need specific agreements in place on which entity contributes how much water, who pays how much for new infrastructure, and how much water each entity can use no later than March 31. The draft MOU expires on that date.

Today’s discussion seemed to bring the parties close to an agreement—but the MOU is simply an agreement to agree. They’re setting the stage simply for continued deliberation over the specific cost and water agreements still needed.

If all five partner entities sign off on the MOU, it sets the stage for all parties to talk specifics—which feels like they’re back to square one.

Some people wanted more, like Dennis Sites of Ocean Mist Farms. “You started out by saying there’s an agreement to agree,” he said. “It’s an agreement to try to agree. That makes me a little concerned.”

But it’s actually progress, says Water Resources Agency GM David Chardavoyne. “When it was just MCWRA and PCA, we weren’t making any progress,” he says. “When Monterey Peninsula Water Management District came into the picture and provided some adult supervision, we started making progress.”

Some highlights of that progress, per the draft MOU and this morning’s meeting, which was facilitated by Water Management District GM Dave Stoldt:

  • Stoldt kicked off the meeting with this: “Perfect is the enemy of the good. I always attributed that to (County Supervisor) Dave Potter, but apparently it was Voltaire.”
  • If any new water rights are granted from the State Water Resources Control Board, the county Water Resources Agency gets to keep them. Stoldt and Chardavoyne plan to clarify that language in the MOU by Monday.
  • “We’re highly confident some level of water rights will get granted,” Stoldt said. However, he cautioned that there might be some environmental opposition to using these waters: Reportedly, a CSU Monterey Bay professor has seen steelhead in Gabilan Creek.
  • Nancy Isakson, president of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition, which represents agricultural water interests, suggested that Stoldt strike the mention of water rights. “The Salinas River and surface water rights were mentioned a few times in this room,” said Rich Smith, a coalition member and owner of Paraiso Vineyards near Soledad. “Just printing those words in the [MOU] is going to cause indigestion from Bradley to Castroville.” (If you want to know why, take a look at the Weekly’s recent cover story on the Salinas River and water rights history.)
  • Smith was seeking a clearer explanation of how the expansion would benefit ag interests, when it clearly benefits the Peninsula. “The Valley is full of political influences,” he said. “I’m a young guy, and I’m 70. It’s not easy for me to sit in the Water Coalition meetings and say, ‘What we’re doing is actually a good thing.'”
  • Seaside Mayor Ralph Rubio tried to assuage some of Smith’s suspicions that the Peninsula users would somehow cut off ag down the road. “I  take you at face value for being an honorable gentleman; I would hope you would do the same for me,” he said.
  •  “The idea that we’re go to shut it off…I’m not looking at an end-all benefit just for the Peninsula. We’re not closed systems, we’re not silos.”
  • If approved, the MOU will eliminate a previous claim growers have insisted on. It’s an amendment granting up 19,500 acre-feet per year of treated water to growers in the Castroville area. That number would be replaced by today’s existing supply, which is lower, about 15,500.
  • Part of why the 19,500 acre-foot threshold hasn’t been met is because of improved conservation measures by household users; more efficient washers, shower heads and toilets means less water for PCA to treat and reuse.

A few people pointed out that all of this water—toilet water, urban runoff, ag-polluted ditches, industrial wastewater—was once a liability. Now each entity views it as an asset.

“This never says it’s an agreement to agree, it’s an agreement to negotiate,” Stoldt said.