Water district proposes partnership with City of Poway
By Karen Brainard
The year 2013 could be the start of a partnership between the Ramona Municipal Water District and the City of Poway in an effort to reduce water costs and increase local resources.
“If this vision is implemented, it will dramatically change how RMWD conducts business…” RMWD General Manager David Barnum told the board at its December meeting.
Barnum said the district needs to think outside the box and turn liabilities into
assets. “We’re working on opportunities,” he said. “We’re working on broader concepts.”
The general manager introduced a three-phase, long-range vision concept to the board, noting that all three phases would take years to implement.
•Second source of potable water to increase redundancy and reduce reliance on the San Diego County Water Authority
RMWD purchases all of its water from the San Diego County Water Authority (CWA), which buys water from the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles. The Met buys from the State. CWA’s water, treated at the Twin Oaks plant in San Marcos, is distributed to Ramona through a line that runs down Espola Road in Poway. The water is then delivered to RMWD’s Poway Pump Station, which pumps the water 1,000 feet up hill to deliver to customers.
“The reason we have one source is economy—low cost alternative,” said Barnum.
Poway can treat the water less expensively than what treated water costs from CWA, Barnum said, adding that RMWD would buy from both.
“Ideally you want two sources of treated water,” he said.
RMWD stores untreated water for agricultural use in Lake Ramona, he said.
Studies on upgrading the non-operating Bargar Water Treatment Plant, or building a treatment plant at Lake Ramona have shown that such projects would be much too costly, Barnum said.
•Identify opportunities to potentially reduce the costs of water treatment
The City of Poway buys untreated water from CWA and treats the water at its plant on Lake Poway Road for reduced costs. RMWD’s pump station is just northeast of Poway’s plant and midway between the plant and Lake Ramona.
Barnum proposes that Ramona could possibly purchase excess treated water from Poway during its low-demand times, and gravity-feed untreated water in Lake Ramona to Poway to be treated for potable use. That would give Ramona a second source of potable water and could be cost advantageous for both communities, he said. Barnum hopes that existing lines could be used.
•Increase emergency storage for the community of Ramona
Currently, Ramona has 24 hours of emergency potable water storage. That could change, Barnum said, if water in Lake Ramona could be treated in Poway.
According to Barnum, to store more treated water in tanks for emergencies is not cost effective because water can become stale after a period of time.
RMWD is looking into added a natural gas line to the Poway Pump Station as a second power source. If that happens, during a power outage, water from Lake Ramona could be gravity-fed to Poway and treated, providing Poway has a generator, and then pumped up to Ramona, using natural gas as the power source.
•Better utilization of Lake Ramona
RMWD maintains about 3,500 acre feet of water in Lake Ramona—an acre foot is around two million gallons—but the lake’s capacity is 12,000 acre feet. RMWD sells about 1,000 acre feet a year for agriculture, said Barnum.
The untreated water from CWA costs about $1,000 per acre foot. If the two communities partner, they could share the costs of filling the lake with untreated water from CWA, as well as operating costs, he said.
“If we could share the resources, we could share the costs,” Barnum told the board.
•Indirect Potable Reuse for the Community of Ramona
At RMWD’s Santa Maria Wastewater Reclamation Plant, some of the effluent produced goes through a tertiary process to improve the water quality for recycling, Barnum explained. Any additional effluent is distributed over spray fields.
Phase 2 proposes that all effluent could go through tertiary treatment at Santa Maria and blended with the untreated water in Lake Ramona, raising the standard of the lake water to make it easier to treat for potable use.
Although the tertiary plant and lines at Santa Maria would have to be expanded, benefits could include decreased costs to Santa Maria sewer customers, and reduced costs of treated water. A variety of studies would be required by regulatory agencies, he said.
•Identify opportunities to potentially reduce costs of pumping through generation of electricity
If Ramona and Poway form a partnership and transfer water between the two communities, the water flowing up and down the terrain could generate electricity, Barnum said, and possibly offset the cost of pumping.
Barnum said he and RMWD staff are excited about the possibility of partnering with Poway and has had discussions with city staff.
“They are encouraged. They are optimistic also,” he said.
To see if Phase 1 is feasible, Poway staff is conducting a study that will take six to nine months, Barnum said. He expects to hear back from Poway staff late next year as to whether the city has available capacity and interest in the partnership.
Barnum noted that if Phase 1 is implemented, Phases 2 and 3 would be years away.
Water board members were receptive to the possible partnership with President Bryan Wadlington calling it an “extremely exciting concept,” and Director Joe Zenovic saying, “Finally, finally a use for Lake Ramona.”
- District holds steady on water rates, proposes other increases
- Water district considers natural gas line for pump station in Poway
- Water district’s public hearing on rates scheduled for Tuesday
- Barnum asks for board direction on desalinated water vote
- Water board says No to desalinated water
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