Grover Beach discusses future of its water supply

kleslie@thetribunenews.comOctober 29, 2013 

As the rest of California worries about dry years and low reservoir levels, Grover Beach is contemplating measures to ensure a stable water supply in the future even as the city continues to grow.

At a special meeting of the Grover Beach City Council on Monday, city officials discussed water resources and challenges facing the city regarding availability. Although no decisions were made, options included increasing conservation, expanding pipeline capacity from Lopez Lake and even the unlikely construction of a desalination plant.

“I’m very conscious of the fact that we have some really big decisions coming up as we move forward,” Mayor Debbie Peterson said at the start of the meeting.

The city has access to approximately 2,207 acre-feet of water per year, said city engineer Greg Ray, the final speaker at Monday’s meeting. This includes 800 acre-feet in entitlement from Lopez Lake, with the rest coming from groundwater resources.

Currently, Grover Beach has enough water to cover demand (about one third acre-foot per household per year) and still have a surplus.

But as the city grows, demand will grow as well, Ray said.

Grover Beach currently has a population of about 13,211, which is expected to increase to 15,000 by 2040.

Ray projects that once the population gets to that point, demand will outpace supply.

This could occur much sooner than 2040, however, with any unexpected changes in population growth, consumption or water availability.

This gives Grover Beach a 20-plus-year window at best in which to make a decision, but Ray encouraged the council to consider options that would ensure water reliability now.

“We have to make decisions and to do that we have to make some predictions,” Ray said. “There’s a lot of variability.”

Some methods Ray suggested for ensuring reliability in the future were conservation and increasing capacity in the pipeline that transports water to the area from Lopez Lake.

Of the two, conservation is the cheapest because it results in less water use, rather than attempting to increase the supply, Ray said.

Even with conservation efforts, though, pipeline enhancements will be necessary at some point if the city buys more water from Lopez Lake, because the existing pipeline doesn’t have the capacity to handle it, he said.

Ray also discussed other options, such as accessing water entitlements the county previously bought but has never used from the State Water Project — which draws water from Northern California — as well as recycling wastewater for use on agricultural crops and building a desalination plant.

These alternatives were all considered “unfeasible,” Ray said, because of high costs and negative public perceptions.

Peterson summed up the root of the discussion at the end of the meeting: “Do we go with the 25-year plan that’s going to cost a whole lot more, or do we stay where we are?”

Because it was only a workshop, no official decisions were made, though it is likely a water item will appear on a Grover Beach City Council agenda in the coming months.

Other speakers at the workshop included city engineer Jim Garing, who gave a historical perspective on water in Grover Beach, and State Parks representatives Ronnie Glick and Stephanie Wald, who spoke on the environmental impacts of water use in the city.

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