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Executive Summary for February 2nd

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including water bond money for desalination, Sierra Nevada snowpack, and a new water reuse guide for design professionals.

Published on Feb. 2, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

State Money Spurs Desal

California awarded Proposition 1 water bond money from 2014 to boost desalination efforts in the state, but just one out of eight of the projects is for ocean desalination.

The Mercury News reported that $34.4 million was award to eight projects, most of which focus on brackish desalination that targets salty water found in places like aquifers or rivers. Ocean desalination projects tend to be costlier, at $2,000 to $2,500 an acre-foot, compared to $1,000 to $2,000 for brackish desalination. And ocean desal can also have greater environmental impacts and energy costs.

California only has five ocean desalination plants running currently, and there are 24 brackish desalination plants.

Snowpack and Allocations

At the start of February, California’s statewide snowpack is at just 30 percent of normal with more warm and dry weather expected in the weeks ahead, making the allocations from the State Water Project low.

“February is the peak season for snow accumulation,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA, told Bay Area News Group. “Every week that we don’t reverse this trend from here forward, it’s going to be that much harder to get to where we want to be by the end of the season.”

This time in 2017 during California’s extremely wet year, the snowpack was at 182 percent of normal levels. But this year a lack of precipitation is not the only factor, temperatures in the Sierra Nevada have been 5F above average.

The low snowpack has prompted the Department of Water Resources to announce that those receiving water via the State Water Projects would get just 20 percent of their requested amounts, although that figure could change if there is more precipitation in the coming months.

Water Reuse Guide

The William J. Worthen Foundation has released a practice guide aimed at helping architects and engineers better understand the ins and outs of onsite non-potable water reuse.

San Francisco has been leading in the space, mandating that large developments over 250,000 square feet build onsite graywater reuse systems. Salesforce Tower, the largest building in San Francisco is the latest to help pioneer both graywater and blackwater technology. And while permitting for such projects is now streamlined in San Francisco, it can be much harder to navigate the regulations and permitting requirements in other areas.

The guide addresses that and a lot more including, “project pitch, design, scope definition, system specification, permitting, and operation of onsite non-potable water reuse technologies including rainwater, stormwater, and gray- and blackwater systems for residential and non-residential uses.”

This week, California state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced a new bill, SB 966, that would develop statewide onsite water reuse regulations. It would require that the State Water Resources Control Board “issue comprehensive regulations, including health and safety standards, to help local jurisdictions implement these programs,” a news release about the new bill states.

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