Staff of the Cambria Community Services District turned off the district’s advanced water-treatment facility Dec. 31, according to a Jan. 6 email sent to district directors and others by Jerry Gruber, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District.
Therefore, starting with Jan. 1 use and continuing through until the next time the plant is started, ratepayers won’t be charged the operational fee levied whenever the $13 million Sustainable Water Facility (SWF, formerly titled the Emergency Water Supply Project or EWS) is up and running. (Bills due out this month will include those fees, however, since they represent water use through Dec. 31.)
Turning the plant off (or on) is far more complex and time consuming than simply flipping a switch. The process requires many precise actions to flush, protect and/or mothball various pricey elements, such as reverse-osmosis membranes.
The plant adjacent to San Simeon Creek had been operating since mid-September, and also in a test run in 2014, under an emergency permit the county issued because the district said the community was at risk for running out of water during the severe, sustained drought.
Meanwhile, following the holiday break, Gruber, his staff, and the two board members on an ad hoc committee (President Gail Robinette and Director Greg Sanders) have ramped up again their work with consulting firm Michael Baker International to complete an extensive report on the plant’s impact on the environment. That environmental impact report will be a vital component in the district’s efforts to get a full permit to allow the plant to operate permanently.
Gruber said in his Jan. 6 email to district directors and others that Justin Smith, who heads up CCSD’s water department, used several rationales when deciding to shut down plant operations Dec. 31:
▪ The area has received 5 inches of rain this season, with more predicted, “which will continue to allow the well levels to rise” and the aquifers to recharge.
As of readings taken Jan. 11, key wells were almost full, with the average level in CCSD’s San Simeon wells at 18.81 feet (they’re considered full when the average is between 20 and 22 feet). The Jan. 11 reading was 38.15 feet at the SR4 well along Santa Rosa Creek, near Leffingwell High School. The reading was 7.49 feet at the Windsor Bridge monitoring well on Santa Rosa Creek. Measurements taken at that monitoring well serve as a benchmark for when the district can and cannot draw water from wells in that aquifer.
I have confidence in Justin (Smith)’s decision to shut down the SWF based on his operational experience and expertise.
Jerry Gruber, CCSD general manager
Other factors affecting staff’s water management plan were having the plant offline extra days in November “due to staffing issues during the holidays, the imminent forecast of rain and the need for minor maintenance to be performed,” Smith wrote Gruber in a Jan. 7 email.
The need to replace a well pump at the district’s SR4 well also affected how much water was in which well in the Santa Rosa Creek aquifer.
It’s all part of an aquifer-management plan, Smith said, balancing need/use against supply in each well and aquifer to keep water levels as consistent as possible.
▪ Water is flowing in San Simeon and Santa Rosa creeks. Water from both creeks has since broken through the sandbars to the ocean.
▪ The San Simeon well field has maintained a positive gradient between the aquifer and sea water.
▪ Smith also noted that turning off the plant will save the district money on collecting, sampling and testing water from the plant and preparing detailed reports on plant operations.
Gruber said, “I have confidence in Justin’s decision to shut down the SWF based on his operational experience and expertise.”