SAN DIEGO --The San Diego County Water Authority board of directors today approved construction of a system of reservoirs, pipelines, and other facilities that will help meet the region's emergency water needs well into the 21st century.
The Emergency Water Storage Project will add 90,100 acre-feet in additional storage capacity within the county -- the largest such increase since San Vicente Reservoir was completed in 1944. (One acre foot is about 326,000 gallons -- enough water to meet the average household needs of two families for one year.)
Combined with storage space already dedicated to emergency use, the additional capacity will meet the county's emergency needs through at least 2030, according to Authority projections. The project also will result in new pipelines and pump stations to deliver the water during emergencies throughout the Authority's 909,000-acre service area.
The project will cost $554.2 million in today's dollars. The action by Authority directors increased the Authority's capital budget by $730 million, a figure that takes into account anticipated inflation over the project's life.
Adoption of the project and other Authority programs will increase the average household water bill in San Diego County by about $2.30 per month by 2003 and by about $5 per month by 2010, according to Authority projections.
The project calls for the authority to construct a new reservoir in the Olivenhain area and connect it with nearby Lake Hodges. In addition, the Authority will expand San Vicente Reservoir. All three facilities will be connected with the authority's second aqueduct, which extends north from the Riverside County line to Lower Otay Reservoir in the South County.
The water will be reserved for use when any of the Authority's five pipelines are out of service or lack of supply forces the agency to reduce normal deliveries to any part of its service area by at least 25 percent. The Authority serves 97 percent of San Diego County's residents.
The Authority imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California waterways in aqueducts that cross three earthquake faults and the flood-prone San Luis Rey River before reaching San Diego County. A major earthquake or flood will cut the region off from imported water deliveries for between two and six months.
A catastrophe of this magnitude would leave San Diego totally dependent on water stored south of the earthquake breaks until repairs are made, but the county's local supplies would not be adequate in such a case, says Authority General Manager Maureen A. Stapleton.
"An emergency that cuts off our imported water supply will affect everyone who lives here and damage our $87 billion regional economy," Stapleton said. "Our Emergency Water Storage Project will ensure that the San Diego region has enough water to withstand a prolonged disruption of normal water deliveries without suffering sustained economic and environmental damage."
Work on the project is scheduled to begin in 1999 and be completed by 2011.
The project has been authorized on both the federal and state levels. Authority directors in 1996 certified the project's environmental impact report, which is required by California law. Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit for the project under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.
The Corps' record of decision, which was based on information compiled in the Authority's environmental impact statement, found the Authority's project to be "technically feasible, economically justified, environmentally acceptable, and in the public interest."
The Authority has adopted agreements with the city of San Diego regarding joint use of San Vicente and Lake Hodges and with the Olivenhain district concerning joint use of the Olivenhain reservoir.
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