SCVWD’s Beau Goldie Answers Questions
Posted by Comments (6)on Wednesday, September 21, 2011
This is the newest installment of a San Jose Inside feature that allows readers to pose questions to public officials. This week, Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO Beau Goldie has answered 10 questions selected by SJI staff out of dozens submitted by San Jose Inside commenters. The topics range from SCVWD employee pay to dam safety. The next public official to be interviewed by readers will be announced on Friday.—Editor
I’d like to ask how much the Water District spends each year on advertising and outreach? Water District ads encouraging people to conserve are on all of the time. (By now, I think we’ve got it!)
— Timothy Wright
The budget for marketing campaigns has varied depending on the seasonal need. For example, the “Save 20 gallons” water conservation campaign was released in 2009, following a 15 percent mandatory conservation call by our board of directors. The call came as the state entered the third year of drought and the need to save water became more urgent and immediate. While urging the cities to activate their drought ordinances to enforce mandatory conservation, we launched an aggressive education and outreach effort to help the community cut water usage immediately. The board approved $1 million for the education campaign in FY 2009-10. The public responded positively, and community efforts, coupled with improved rainfall and the slow economy, resulted in 17 percent water conservation.
With the water supply situation improving significantly last winter and the board calling for only voluntary conservation, the marketing campaign budget this year was reduced 85 percent to $150,000. However, the recent improvement in water supply does not eliminate the need to continue to save water every day or the potential future need for stepped-up conservation messages.
It is important to note that the district’s long-term water supply plan calls for annual water savings (conservation) of 98,500 acre-feet per year by 2030. That is enough water to fill Lexington Reservoir five times. The state of California has mandated that per-capita urban water use be reduced 20 percent by the year 2020. To reach that goal, Santa Clara County must make permanent water conservation improvements every year.
What are your thoughts on fluoridation, and do you support efforts to add fluoride to the local water supply? Or is this a hot potato issue the district would prefer to side-step and leave to the local water companies?
While this issue does generate a lot of attention, it is important to understand some fundamentals about the role of the Santa Clara Valley Water District in our region.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of safe, clean water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County’s 1.8 million residents. The water district provides wholesale water to 13 local water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses.
Now, to your question about fluoridation. Assembly Bill 733 (Speier) was signed into law in October 1995. The bill authorized the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to require large water systems to fluoridate their public water supply if outside funding is provided. It also directed CDPH to seek funding for fluoridation.
The California Fluoridation Regulations, adopted by the CDPH, were added to the California Code of Regulations (CCR - Title 22, Sections 64433 and 64434) in April 1998. These regulations apply to large systems with at least 10,000 service connections.
Since we are a water wholesaler with only 27 direct service connections, these regulations do not apply to the water district. The regulations do, however, apply to the our local retailers, like San Jose Water Company, California Water Service, Great Oaks Water Company, and the cities of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and San Jose.
Though we are not required to fluoridate, we have always understood that efforts to fluoridate Santa Clara County’s water would be most economical if the district were part of the equation. The district recently has been evaluating fluoridating along with the San Jose Water Company and has developed cost estimates. Two workshops have been held in the past year to provide our board of directors with information and allow the public an opportunity to provide their input on-the-record. These workshops (dated November 23, 2010 and March 22, 2011) are available for viewing on our website (valleywater.org).
While the decision to fluoridate has not yet been made, our board of directors will continue to evaluate a fluoridation policy later this year.
People in the South Valley region of Santa Clara County are concerned about the seismic safety of Anderson Dam. What exactly will be done to improve the dam’s safety—and who will be liable for the expense of this expensive project?
— Marty Cheek
Using our current knowledge of seismic engineering to ensure reliability and safety, eight of the district’s 10 dams, which were constructed during the 1930s to 1950s, are being evaluated for seismic safety. Anderson Dam and Reservoir, near Morgan Hill, is the district’s largest dam having a storage capacity of 90,000 acre feet—more volume than the combined storage capacity of the district’s nine other reservoirs.
Anderson Dam’s seismic evaluation was recently completed and the results indicate a need for a seismic retrofit to improve the structural integrity of the dam. There are two seismic issues of concern: liquefiable material at the foundation of the dam and fault traces under the dam that could potentially damage the outlet pipe. Both of these issues must be addressed.
Without going into too much of the engineering detail here, I would note that we have a lot of information available on our website specifically about Anderson Dam and our dam safety program.
Since Anderson Dam is a water storage facility, the cost of the retrofit will be included in groundwater production charges, treated water charges and surface water charges. The district will also pursue both state and federal grant funding, if available, to minimize water rate impacts. The district is also investigating whether a special parcel tax could be used for part of the funding. Regardless of any additional funding, most of the revenue needed for the project will most likely be derived from water charges.
A seismic retrofit planning study for Anderson Dam is scheduled for completion in 2013.
What became of the new ozone system at the water plant in Los Gatos? We paid you with our taxes and yet I understand that they do not have the ozone. What has happened to our money for this? What other projects that we the taxpayers have paid you for has not been completed?
The Santa Clara Valley Water District owns and operates the three water treatment plants: Rinconada in Los Gatos, Penitencia in east San Jose, and Santa Teresa in south San Jose. Cumulatively, they can deliver a total of 220 million gallons per day (mgd) of clean drinking water.
Rinconada, the first treatment plant, began operating in 1968 and has a capacity of 80 mgd. The water district is investing more than $50 million in facility renewal projects at Rinconada to replace valves and actuators, improve standby power, rehabilitate the clarifier system, upgrade chemical systems, and improve residual management. These critical infrastructure projects were required to keep the plant operational and needed to be completed before treatment process modifications.
As water quality challenges and treatment technologies continue to evolve, it was prudent to verify using ozone as a robust technology to take the plant into the future. A re-evaluation of the original ozone design has been completed and with some minor differences in process, the ozone design was validated. The water district is currently completing the alternatives analysis and project planning will begin next year.
Add me to the list of people questioning the history of high salaries and lavish benefits at this public agency. How do you justify them?
To provide the critical service of delivering clean, reliable water, we need experts. The Santa Clara Valley Water District has many specialized positions that require a high level of technical and subject matter expertise in a variety of professional disciplines such as biology, chemistry, environmental sciences, water plant operations, and especially engineering. Many of our positions require licenses and certifications by regulatory state agencies.
On an annual basis, the district conducts a benchmark compensation survey against 10 comparator public agencies for specified classifications. District salaries are compared against survey data using the 60th percentile as a guideline. These surveys indicate that total compensation (salaries and benefits) at the district is in line with our peer agencies.
However, we continue to focus on efficiencies and reductions. Over the past year, we have reduced the annual budget (FY11 to FY12) by $2.4 million. Staff positions were reduced by 10 from FY11 to FY12 or $1.43 million (salaries and benefits). Over the past 4 years, we have reduced 92 positions bringing our total employee population to 761. Also, our consultant services budget was reduced by $500,000 from FY11 to FY12. Staff overtime budget has been reduced by $223,569 from FY11 to FY12. And the training travel budget was reduced by $76,000 from FY11 to FY12.
To continue to ensure we are using the public’s money efficiently, I have also established a comprehensive management audit program. This will help to strengthen accountability to the board and public.
Are there any plans for the Water District to buy the South Bay Water Recycling Program from the City of San Jose? Based on my experience, it seems the City of San Jose (and the WPCP) does not want SBWR and would love to unload it on the District.
— Purple Pipe Person
The water district and the city have entered into a new partnership that enhances the role the district plays in recycled water operations, management, planning and expansion decisions. In 2010, the district and the city entered into a 40-year agreement to build and operate a new advanced treatment facility. The water district will operate and maintain this new facility, which will produce up to 10 million gallons a day of highly purified water which will help expand the use of recycled water in Santa Clara County.
Recycled water is an increasingly important component of our overall water supply picture. It is the responsibility of the Santa Clara Valley Water District to plan for a future where the residents and businesses of Santa Clara County have enough safe, clean water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
SCVWD “owns” the aquifer and watershed via state law (I believe) which means they own all the water under the ground and flowing across it in established water ways. This diminishment of private property rights was a trade-off towards establishing limits to well water production abuse that was causing land to subside in the 1920s and led in part to a series of reservoirs and later imported water. It still bothers me, however, that the district owns all the water rights under everyone’s private property and can set their tariff for well water on private property. Do you think this legacy policy is still justified or is it just a cash cow that no one wants to tamper with?
— Blair Whitney
First, let me clarify that Santa Clara Valley Water District does not own the aquifer or the watersheds around the county. No one owns the water underground or on the land surface. However, the water district, as well as others, do possess certain rights to the use of water. As stated in Section 102 of the California Water Code: All water within the State is the property of the people of the State, but the right to the use of water may be acquired by appropriation in the manner provided by law.
Excessive pumping of groundwater in the early to mid-1900s led to overdraft and land subsidence. Wells had to be drilled deeper and deeper. Land subsidence, reaching up to 14 feet in downtown San Jose, resulted in property damage and greater flood risks. This is why the district was established by Santa Clara County farmers and businesses.
The water district succeeded in restoring groundwater levels and putting a halt to land subsidence by the late 1960s through its management of groundwater recharge programs, achieved substantially because of an augmented water supply coming from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This imported supply allowed the valley to grow and prosper over the subsequent decades.
Imported water continues to provide a vital source of water supply to the county. Currently, the community depends on imported water for 55 percent of our water supply. This supply allows us to replenish our groundwater basin through percolation ponds, where it is later extracted and delivered to you. This is a very efficient storage and distribution system.
Our groundwater recharge programs include: purchase of imported water; construction, operation and maintenance of facilities to import, convey, store, recharge, treat, distribute water for the benefit of all who rely directly or indirectly on the groundwater supplies. The groundwater charges levied by the district constitute one of the major sources of revenue to pay for the costs to protect and augment the water supplies in Santa Clara County. Without the district’s programs, there will be insufficient groundwater supply to meet local need and a likely return to the conditions of groundwater overdraft and land subsidence.
What efforts are being made to increase the public access to district facilities for walking trails, etc.? Does the district ever sell surplus properties?
The water district has partnered with the county and cities for many years to provide recreational opportunities on reservoirs with the County Parks Department and along creeks and streams with many cities. Increasing public access to district lands for trails is part of our Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, approved by voters in 2000.
We make our property available for recreational uses where it does not interfere with our core business of water supply, flood protection and environmental stewardship functions. Local agencies build, operate, maintain and provide security for the recreational use on district property.
This is a good example of public agencies working together to maximize the use of public property and leverage expertise and resources. Since 2000, the district has partnered with other agencies to open 65.5 miles of trails; an additional 6.5 miles are planned with grant awards announced in June 2011.
The district continues to expand its outreach for trail development on and off of district facilities; in 2011, we notified 140 stakeholders and schools throughout the county about available grant opportunities.
On your other question, yes, the water district periodically announces surplus property and goes through a public process to sell surplus land.
Orange County rolled out water treatment plant that accomplishes the “toilet to tap” space-age type stuff of turning treated wastewater into safe drinking water. They actually scrapped their de-salination plant to do this and I guess are using the treated water for ground water recharge. Are we headed in the same direction here? If so, is it at a reasonable cost and effective scale to have a real impact on the local water supply in dry years? Does it compare favorably in cost versus desalination or other efforts to increase supply?
— Blair Whitney
In March 2010, the water district and the City of San José signed a 40-year agreement to build a new advanced recycled water treatment (AWT) facility and increase the use of recycled water in the Santa Clara County. The AWT facility will be a state-of-the-art water treatment operation that will use three treatment technologies to produce highly purified water. This AWT facility will be using technology similar to that used by the Orange County Water District and will allow us to demonstrate this technology locally.
Locally, we will blend this highly purified water with the treated recycled water that is used today by more than 600 South Bay Water Recycling customers for non-drinking water purposes, such as landscape irrigation and industrial uses. By blending the highly purified water with the existing recycled water supply, we enhance the overall quality substantially. This will increase the desirability of recycled water for industrial and landscape customers.
While this facility is being built for non-drinking purposes, the water district is exploring the feasibility of using highly purified recycled water for replenishment of groundwater basins. We are currently evaluating our county’s long-term water supply needs to determine the best ways to fill them. Using water purified at an advanced treatment plant to augment groundwater supplies is one of the many options we’re studying.
In our analysis of water supply alternatives, including desalination, multiple objectives will need to be met and detailed analyses of the costs and benefits weighed. No matter what options prevail, the community is encouraged to be involved in the decision-making process.
The Water District has constructed miles of flood protection projects to prevent flooding of homes and businesses. If you live within a floodplain where a project was completed, when will you no longer have to pay for flood insurance?
— D. McCormick
Flood protection is the second major component of our 3-part mission.
Since the early 1980s, the district has invested more than $1 billion in flood protection programs and major construction projects. As a result, we have protected more than 97,000 properties in previously flood-prone areas of Santa Clara County. And we have removed over 56,000 cubic yards of sediment to maintain the capacity of local streams and creeks so they won’t flood during the rainy season.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for all changes to the flood insurance rate map. After a flood protection project is completed, FEMA requires extensive information to be sent to them. It takes approximately six months to prepare this information. FEMA’s review of the materials takes an additional approximate 12 months. Assuming FEMA certifies the information, FEMA will issue a Letter of Map Revision (LOMAR). Once the map is revised, FEMA will revise the insurance requirements for that area.
If you have specific questions about a flood protection or stream maintenance project, please call our offices at 408-265-2607 or go to our website and click on ValleyWater@Work to see updated information about major construction and neighborhood projects.
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