City needs to take initiative with wastewater

Editorial

The Indian Wells Valley Water District sent a letter to the city of Ridgecrest on May 14 requesting to negotiate for the wastewater generated by the city’s proposed new wastewater treatment facility that has been in the planning stage for several years. A month later, the lack of a response from the city is difficult to understand.

The letter explains that the WD operates at 2,000+ acre-feet more than its water allocation granted by the IWV Groundwater Authority. According to City Manager Ron Strand, there will be somewhere between 2,000-2,400 acre-feet of wastewater available for treatment and the city is considering multiple options for its use.

In a recent WD workshop, the purpose of which was to discuss alternative water sources, the new treatment plant was identified as the highest priority.

“The availability of a supplemental water supply within the basin is not only desirable from a financial standpoint, it also demonstrates responsibility in considering all local sources before looking for assistance outside the basin,” says the WD letter, a copy of which the News Review received from Strand. “One source that has not been used effectively in the past is the water from the city’s wastewater treatment facility.”

The GA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, submitted in January, identifies two projects to bring imported water into the basin to address the shortfall. But both projects involve staggering costs between $55-178 million of infrastructure alone. The WD letter says that these costs don’t include annual operational and maintenance costs, nor do they even include the cost of water.

“Without funding on the state and federal level, these projects pose an unreasonable financial burden for the residents of the Indian Wells Valley,” says the letter.

According to GA Boardmembers, imported water can cost as much as $2,000 acre-foot. These costs will largely fall on the ratepayers of the WD, which is essentially the same constituency as the city.

We agree with the WD that partnering with the city is clearly a superior long-term alternative to spending millions on infrastructure and millions more on water.

The fact that the GA has not yet secured a water source, nor has it identified costs of water, shows we are not even close to finding a solution to our shortfall. And the absence of more exploratory drilling brings the confidence of that stated shortfall into question.

The WD – among others – has consistently expressed concerns of both the availability and affordability of imported water, and its request to the city is in the best interests of both agencies.

We strongly urge the city to immediately enter serious discussions with the WD as a step toward resolving our water situation. The California Department of Water Resources is waiting for us to demonstrate some initiative.

Story First Published: 2020-06-19