Recycled Water is treated wastewater delivered for irrigation and similar non-potable water uses. The largest Coachella Valley water companies, Desert Water Agency and Coachella Valley Water District, deliver a Recycled Water product that includes more than treated wastewater. They add potable water to the mix and the result is a hybrid combination of two. The term potable signifies the water is suitable for drinking.

     Recycled Water has been exempted from most local and State Water Resources Control Board mandatory water usage restrictions. Whether the state board’s definition of Recycled Water includes the hybrid product being delivered by the local agencies is unknown. It’s for that reason I’ve sent inquiries asking whether the local non-standard Recycled Water product qualifies for exemption from water usage restrictions.

     The following are copies of my recently sent inquiries.


Date: Wed, 22 July 2015
Subject: Recycled Water Policy

Dear State Water Resources Control Board:

I’m a Coachella Valley resident interested in learning more about your Recycled Water Policies. It’s my understanding you have exempted users of Recycled Water from your mandatory conservation restriction requirements.

I’ve been led to understand the Recycled Water term is intended to represent non-potable treated wastewater that is used for irrigation of parks, golf courses and similar purposes. It’s not supposed to include fresh potable water.

Coachella Valley has two major water districts that both treat wastewater for delivery to golf course and local parks. Their names are Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA). Neither agency furnishes Recycled Water of the exact type I’ve described above.

CVWD imports Colorado River water via canal. They mix it with treated wastewater and deliver to customers (primarily golf courses) as Recycled Water.

DWA pumps fresh water from the aquifer that it mixes with treated wastewater. The mix is then delivered to customer accounts (golf courses and city parks) as Recycled Water.

Does the State Water Resources Control Board have a definition of what is intended by their use of the term Recycled Water?

Is the mixing of either freshly pumped water or Colorado River water with treated wastewater eligible for classification by you as Recycled Water?

Should the hybrid mix of treated wastewater and potable water be considered as Recycled Water and eligible for exclusion from your water conservation restrictions?

For documentation purposes the CVWD handling of Recycled Water is discussed in the local Desert Sun’s newspaper 2013 story titled “Coachella Valley Water District looks to speed efforts to take golf courses off groundwater” using the following link. http://desert.sn/1LChV9N

The DWA handling of Recycled Water is discussed in the local KESQ Channel 3 news report of March 25, 2015 titled “New wells help the Desert Water Agency recycle more water” in the following link. http://bit.ly/1emn1YY

Sincerely,

Bond Shands
Palm Springs


Date: Fri, 24 July 2015
Subject: Recycled Water Policy – Part Two

Dear State Water Resources Control Board:

In an earlier email I reported that Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency were each mixing potable water with treated wastewater and labeling the combination Recycled Water. It is then delivered for use to irrigate golf courses, parks and other grassy landscape needs. That report was to document my request for your definition of Recycled Water and whether the combination of potable and treated wastewater met that definition.

With respect to the same Recycled Water subject, it’s my understanding neither water agency includes potable water delivered as Recycled Water in their water usage reports.

I would appreciate learning your position with respect to whether potable water delivered as Recycled Water is a violation of, or is exempt from, your reporting requirements.

Sincerely,

Bond Shands
Palm Springs


     Recycled Water users are definitely a privileged class. They are not subject to the same usage restrictions imposed on potable water customers. Those restrictions are intended to discourage irrigating grass and similarly landscaped areas by limiting the days, times and amount of water that may be used. Recycled Water users are, if anything, encouraged to irrigate grass and similarly landscaped areas. One obvious conclusion is that if your property contains large amounts of grass, converting to Recycled Water would be a nice option to consider.
  
     Should Recycled Water users be a privileged class? The practice of mixing freshly pumped aquifer water or Colorado River water with treated wastewater in order to satisfy the needs of Recycled Water users begs the question of whose best interests are being served by local water agencies. As for the practice itself, it almost appears as if intended to artificially lower reported potable water usage statistics.

Bond Shands
July 24, 2015
Desert Political Opinion blog – www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook blog – www.BondShands.com
Twitter – @BondShands

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5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote

      The Desert Sun newspaper’s editorial “Drought solutions must be broad based” states Coachella Valley cheap and plentiful water supplies have “lulled our desert community into a false sense of security. New policies that drive customers to smart water use should be what’s on tap today.” And that “…..all stakeholders from the homeowner or apartment dweller to the farmer planting thousands of acres rethink how they use water.

Overwatering

        It’s true that residents throughout the state need to rethink our approaches to water usage and how to cope with the prospect of continuing drought situations. But that rethinking needs to start at the local level here in Coachella Valley. This is where we should focus our efforts and by example prove we too care about water usage and related drought issues.

     Perhaps among water issues on the top of our list should be a focus on grass (or “turf”). What should be our future approach to this important part of our local economy and quality of life? Should grass have any role in our desert world? Is it practical to import water for maintenance of pleasurable environments as well as for the grass-supported economy?

     In the Palm Springs and Cathedral City communities served by Desert Water Agency there are new water rules now in place. There’s also a strong water conservation ordinance that was enacted by the City of Palm Springs in November. Together the new water usage regulations now in effect severely limit the amount of water that may be used for maintenance of grass (or “turf”). Watering grass is now restricted to three times weekly, after 7 p.m., and no more than 15 minutes for any area.

     The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has mandated that most of the Coachella Valley’s water usage be cut back 36%. It’s for that reason the latest local restriction are now in place. Water districts must meet their assigned water usage goals or face significant financial penalties. Some have questioned whether one of the SWRCB water conservation goals is to reduce or eliminate most, if not all, watering of grass in the valley? What appears more certain is that the new watering restrictions may achieve that result.

     It’s obvious we need to rethink our use of water. Unfortunately there is no citizen panel, commission or agency that exists to foster the rethinking process. Should not some aspect of the rethinking process be coordinated and/or encouraged by an organized approach? Would not a community water conservation panel be an appropriate step that each of our local agencies, governments and/or communities should consider starting or creating? Surely the immediate goal must be to motivate residents to not only conserve but also to become involved in seeking and implementing solutions. If we fail in the people motivation goal how else will success be achieved without significantly and adversely affecting our quality of life?

     So, when will the actual rethinking process begin?

Bond Shands
April 26, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.bondshands.com

All comments are welcome and should be sent to editor@desertobserver.com. If intended for posting online here please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.

5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote


     Desert Water Agency (DWA) officials have amassed a competent record in delivering water to the western end of Coachella Valley. The agency was formed for that purpose and few would complain the job is not being done right. And, in years past, when the state’s water resources were more plentiful the task of delivering water was about all that was required of water agencies. All that has changed because plentiful state water resources no longer exist. We’re now in an era where there’s more need for water than there are supplies. Water conservation has become the biggest issue with respect to our water resources. And it appears Desert Water Agency officials are not  up to the task of leading the local water conservation charge. It may be that a change will need to occur in Desert Water Agency water management before that organization truly climbs aboard the drought recognition water conservation train.

Water Usage Customer Education and Records
     One of the most significant tools in water conservation is public education. That starts by providing customers with information about their water use in the current period, their water use history and water use comparison data. In the case of other utilities, such as gas and electricity providers, they routinely provide such information as part of the monthly billing statements. Desert Water Agency fall short in this area. DWA billings provide little information other than current Consumption Charge, Fixed Meter Charge and water used measured in 100 cubic foot totals. There’s nothing in the way of comparative historical use. As for the “cubic foot” counter, why, when “gallons of water used” are the normal public standard, does this agency insist on the obscure “cubic foot” term for water use totals? As for customer data, the question has to be asked whether the water agency possesses a modern computerized accounting system or do they rely on pen, paper and desktop calculators for their record keeping? Why are there no online accessible customer accounts to track water usage? Until the agency provides customers with cumulative and historic water use data it’s questionable how much commitment exists with respect to public education.

Click on statement for larger display.

        Click on statement for larger display.

Support for Significant Ongoing Public Input Lacking
      Unlike other large public agencies Desert Water Agency does not have a customer advisory panel (board, commission or committee, etc.) to work with the Board of Directors. The agency only utilizes customer input in response to specific issues. Such areas as conservation, education, water usage patterns, et.al., are left to the in-house staff and customer input is filtered through staff management. That practice leaves the board with limited access to information and views from sources other than its staff.

Water Use Accountability
     Desert Water Agency needs to step up to the plate and do more with respect to water use and accountability. Simply pointing the finger at customers may not be the most appropriate route to take. A significantly meaningful drought conservation plan with enforced mandatory water use controls and penalties should be part of the organization’s Mission Statement and normal operation.

     Perhaps it’s time for a few new faces who understand and support significant water conservation measures to take charge.

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com
April 13, 2015

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If intended for posting online here please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.


 

5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote

Summary.

The Palm Springs City Council plans to discuss “Regulation of Water Use Within the City of Palm Springs” during their next regular meeting. While other agencies are sitting back and doing little to seriously confront valley water overuse and other conservation needs, it appears we now have a government entity that is prepared to lead in this area. Their published discussion document is extensive and includes many excellent examples of steps appropriate for addressing water needs and concerns.


PALM SPRINGS TAKING LEAD IN AREA WATER CONSERVATION.

Palm Springs, California.    California is facing serious drought issues throughout the state. The Governor has called for significant water usage cutback and other conservation actions. Cities and towns throughout the state are taking serious steps to conserve water supplies. But Coachella Valley communities and government agencies are not part of that parade of concerned water users. We consume more water per capita than in most other communities in the state. Our water rates are among the cheapest. We treat water like air – something that is there in abundance and will always exist. It’s simply taken for granted. Our golf courses are among the largest, greenest and heavily landscaped that exist anywhere. Water runs down our gutters. It’s used to rinse driveways, wash automobiles and dust off walkways. And yet the local newspaper has published a series of investigatory reports detailing our overuse of water. They reported the underground water aquifer is being depleted. The paper detailed the need for a balance to be struck between the water being used with that which is actually available from sources other than the dwindling supply in the aquifer. Their efforts appear to have convinced few among our valley’s leaders for significant action has not occurred. Where are our valley water resource guardians? Who will finally wake up and lead the charge to address our disastrous water use habits and offer solutions that will work? 

     The failure of Desert Water Agency, Coachella Valley Water District, the other three water districts and our local government agencies to seriously address water conservation issues in our valley continues to be a disappointment. We are serenaded with lots of talk but little action of substance when it comes to critical drought issues and our valley’s excessive water usage. Their head-in-the-sand refusal or inability to comprehend, plan and act on the public’s behalf is simply unacceptable. Coachella Valley has serious water issues to face. Those in government most responsible are simply ignoring their duty and obligation to resolutely and promptly devise and implement a plan that will bring our water use and available supplies into balance. We can’t continue to use more water from the underground storage aquifer than is being replenished. A good plan with an enforcement mechanism to address the issue must be devised. 

     The Palm Springs City Council recently published the agenda for their upcoming regular council meeting. It appears they may take the initiative, step up to the plate and seriously address our drought and water conservation needs. The council plans to kick off their effort with a discussion outlined in an agenda item titled “Discussing the Regulation of Water Use Within the City of Palm Springs“. It’s a 28-page document that provides an excellent basis from which I’m not only hopeful, but even optimistic, that they will adopt and implement the plan of water conservation we’ve all been hoping to see here in our valley.

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
May 2, 2014

All comments are welcome and should be sent to editor@desertobserver.com.
If intended for posting online here please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.

The following link leads to the PDF copy of the “Discussing the Regulation of Water Use Within the City of Palm Springs” document. It’s well worth reading by all who care about our environment, the drought and water conservation.

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5.00 avg. rating (98% score) - 3 votes

Summary.

Coachella Valley residents and communities need a Desert Water Use Code and Water Resource Guardians to provide guidance with respect to minimal water conservation standards. None currently exist or appear ready to make an appearance on the horizon. Who or what agency will step up and provide the real conservation leadership that’s needed?


Coachella Valley Water Resource Guardians Needed

 

Palm Springs, California.  In the Coachella Valley desert communities water is arguably our most precious natural resource. It makes the desert habitable, fosters an attractive lifestyle and allows businesses to prosper. Without it the area would be a vacant swath of sand, rocks and hills. Fortunately there is a huge water aquifer beneath the valley floor that serves to make the desert bloom and present the illusion of an eternal garden paradise. It’s the water continually pumped from the aquifer that makes living in the valley such an attractive place to reside.

 

The water in the aquifer is slowly disappearing. Valley water agencies** and private landowners pump water from the aquifer, deliver it throughout the area or otherwise use as needed. There are no limits on the amounts pumped or the purposes for which used. Outside water, primarily from the Colorado River, is imported to replenish the aquifer. Unfortunately, the water being imported is less than the amount being removed and there are no additional sources available for aquifer replenishment. The aquifer water table level is falling and nothing of significance is being done to reverse that trend.

 

The valley’s water agencies view their function as that of water delivery contractors. They pump the water, deliver it to customers and manage the import of outside water that goes into the aquifer. Water conservation is a phrase they often use but it’s a concept not central to their delivery mission. They offer advice, a bit of conservation-related financial assistance, and support voluntary efforts to conserve water use. They do not consider themselves to be Water Resource Guardians and their measures to foster water savings are probably best rated as timid.

 

Coachella Valley needs Water Resource Guardians. Someone or agency is needed to take the lead with respect to providing help and guidance in what should be accepted standards of water use versus waste. As one of our most precious commodities we need to be continually vigilant of the importance water plays in our lives and how easily it could disappear. A Desert Water Use Code is one that should exist and become part of our daily awareness. Particular attention should be paid to water that’s used in public for it’s that perception of what is or is not acceptable that often drives private consumption.

 

A Desert Water Use Code should seek to question water waste. Among the types of concerns we should all seek to address are the following observations of questionable or inappropriate use.

  • Irrigation water runoff flowing down street gutters.
  • Watering irrigated areas twice, or more, daily.
  • Automatically serving glasses of water on restaurant dining tables.
  • Rinsing driveways and walkways.
  • Mid-day irrigation during summer months and other hot periods.
  • Planting and irrigating water-intensive plants.
  • Drenching recently scalped grass areas in order to foster rapid replacement
    growth.

Water waste occurs daily throughout the valley and it’s evident for all to see. It’s time to stop playing water conservation charade and get serious. Our water agencies, local governments and even the Coachella ValleyAssociation of Governments appear unwilling to assume the conservation leadership role. Our valley needs Water Resource Guardians – and now! Perhaps it’s a task too big for small-minded political leadership. Who will lead the way? Who will step up and take on the jobs of Water Resource Guardians?

 

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
February 7, 2014

 

Notes:

.
1.   Desert water agencies include City of Coachella, Cityof Indio, Desert Water Agency serving Cathedral City and Palm Springs, Mission Springs Water District serving Desert Hot Springs, and Coachella Valley Water District serving other valley communities.

.
2.   The Desert Sun newsdesk requests they be advised of water waste observations. Send tips and photo reports to them via email at localnews@thedesertsun.com or Tweet @mydesert with the hashtag #WhatDrought.

.
3.   Desert Water Agency also accepts waste reports. Email them to www.dwa.org/report-water-waste.

.

All comments are welcome and should be sent to comments@desertobserver.com.
If intended for posting online here please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.


.

 

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Summary.
Governor Brown has proclaimed a drought emergency and called for a 20% cutback in state-wide water use. Coachella Valley water officials have either ignored or dismissed the Governor’s water use reduction request and appear to believe voluntary conservation measures taken by water users will suffice to address existing valley water shortages and future needs.


Coachella Valley Water Conservation Questions

Palm Springs, California.  Coachella Valley is running out of water and little of substance is being done to adequately address the problem. The valley aquifer water table is falling as more water is being pumped out than replenished. Great reliance is placed on importing water from outside sources but the amount available and coming in is less than that needed and being consumed. Water conservation is more of a lip-service concept than a practiced reality. The local newspaper is hosting a series of water forums but they are not expected to result in meaningful plans to address valley water shortage problems.

Of significant concern is that too many Coachella Valley officials appear to have a definition of water conservation that does not include provisions for mandatory controls, rationing, penalties for excessive use – or even a definition of what constitutes overuse. Valley water rates are among the cheapest in the state so water costs do not encourage limited use. Significant voluntary water conservation, a concept that has seldom been proven to work, is the only solution being considered at this time.

The water shortage problem is one being faced by more than Coachella Valley. California is undergoing a severe water shortage crisis made of even greater concern by drought conditions. It’s an issue that caused Governor Brown to proclaim a drought emergency. The proclamation noted the state is experiencing the “worst dry spell in a century” and state overall precipitation “is less than 20 percent of normal“. The governor reportedly is “urging voluntary water conservation to the tune of a 20% reduction” in state-wide water use.

Governor Brown’s 20% conservation request has not found favor among valley water officials. Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) General Manager Jim Barrett implied the Governor’s approach represented “reactionary measures” not appropriate for his agencies “long-term water management approach“.

Desert Water Agency (DWA) Board of Directors President Craig Ewing responded “Desert residents have always made conservation a way of life.” In her rebuttal letter Karen Braff, a resident of Palm Springs for 55 years, responded “I know for a fact that water conservation has not been a way of life in Palm Springs. Millions of gallons of precious aquifer have been used to water grass on huge condo green belts, golf courses and homes and even the DWA office complex until 2007.”

As a resident in one of those “huge condo green belts” I’ve heard no calls from fellow owners or our HOA Board of Directors for a water use cutback. In fact I’ve not heard of such concerns being expressed anywhere by the larger water users. The simple truth is that few are prepared to change their water use habits unless forced to do so. Those who might be convinced to cut back may rightfully question whether voluntary water use restrictions, including expensive conversion to desert landscaping, will be mirrored by others in the community. Also, many may hold the view they already are genuine water conservations who have been doing a good job at saving the stuff. Certainly that would appear to be the message they’ve been hearing from the Desert Water Agency in Palm Springs.

Coachella Valley water officials need to address the Governor’s drought emergency proclamation. In that regard, many questions exist but few answers have been provided.

  • Do local officials agree with the call for a significant reduction in water use?
  • Is the Governor’s 20% reduction goal a target water officials share?
  • Do specific plans exist to achieve a local 20% reduction in water use?
  • How and when will water reduction plans take effect?
  • If there is no agreement with the need for a 20% water use reduction, what alternatives exist or are being considered to address valley water conservation shortage issues?


Is Coachella Valley destined to remain a premier state poster candidate for cheap water consumed to excess by a community whose greatest concerns appear based on water-induced financial rewards?

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
January 27, 2014

All comments are welcome and should be sent to comments@desertobserver.com.
If intended for posting online here please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.

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5.00 avg. rating (98% score) - 3 votes

Summary.
Coachella Valley’s unlimited use of scarce water resources is serving to deplete the reserves in the underground aquifer. Water agencies need to adopt firm policies that serve to restrict water use from continuing to lower the aquifer water table. Such restrictions, including water rationing and a ban on new water hookups, should be  implemented.



Coachella Valley: A Place of Water Hogs, Water Wasters and Cheap Water Rates

Palm Springs, California. I applaud the Desert Sun’s “Desert water supply strained by heavy pumping” valley water use iSun investigation and editorial opinion summarizing that report. It’s been made clear more water is being consumed in the valley than is being replaced. That has resulted in too much water being pumped from the underground aquifer and water table levels have fallen significantly. The solution is to use less water or find additional sources to replace the water overdraft.

The “Valley aquifer disaster is under our feet” editorial stated “Restrictions on water use should be considered here” but fail to address the obvious solution that must be followed. Voluntary conservation measures aren’t enough to resolve the problem. And genuine public awareness only occurs when actual pain is shared by all. Otherwise water overuse will continue and Coachella Valley will remain the state’s poster child example of Water Hogs, Water Wasters and Beneficiaries of Cheap Water Rates.

A firm policy intended to bring water use and replacement into balance together with restoration of appropriate underground aquifer water table levels should be in place. Mandatory water use restrictions – including water rationing – should be adopted and enforced. If we fail to address the problem it’s rather clear the underground water table levels will continue to fall. Our continued overuse of water, as if we had an unlimited supply, will undoubtedly serve as a public relations disaster in terms of working with the rest of the state to seek additional sources of water supply. It could even affect efforts to save the Salton Sea.

Local water agencies need to create a Mission Statement that’s fully supportive of water conservation issues. They need to address their obligation to protect the underground aquifer. That protection should include provisions for meaningfully significant aquifer water table levels restoration and maintenance. Protecting the valley’s underground aquifer must be a priority.

We need to get our house in order, face reality and do something about our water waste and overuse problem now!

Bond Shands

Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com

September 16, 2013 (updated September 21, 2013)


All comments are welcome and should be sent to comments@desertobserver.com.
If intended for posting below please include FOR PUBLICATION in the message.


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