The San Diego County Water Authority’s board of directors have unanimously adopted a water facilities master plan that will serve as a road map through 2035 and help the region meet droughts and other emergencies.

The new plan calls for construction of a major pumping station in north San Diego County, but otherwise scales back capital spending because of success with conservation efforts.

Construction to raise the San Vicente Dam and increase storage capacity. Photo courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

“The San Diego region has made significant investments in infrastructure and a serious commitment to water conservation,” said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the water authority. “Those efforts have allowed us to scale back construction projects in coming years without endangering water supply reliability, saving ratepayers a significant amount of money.”

The water authority predicts a savings of $653 million through 2025 by deferring construction of a new pipeline to bring water into the county as wells as other capital projects.

“These plans, crafted through an extensive public process, benefit the entire San Diego region in several ways,” said Thomas V. Wornham, chair of the water authority’s board. “They will help us continue to improve water supply reliability, integrate with other regional planning efforts, promote fiscal sustainability, enhance environmental stewardship and build on our legacy of water conservation.”

The authority said the master plan recognizes the “new normal” of reduced water sales in the region, and a greater emphasis on water conservation and local water supply development. Water authority member agencies are on track to meet the state-mandated goal of reducing per-capita water use 20 percent by 2020.

The water authority said it plans to continue evaluating the feasibility of a seawater desalination facility at Camp Pendleton, but a plant was not included among the projects approved last week.

The previous master plan, adopted in 2003, identified large-scale regional water treatment capacity, seawater desalination, and increased reservoir storage as priorities, prompting three major construction projects that will serve the region for decades.

The Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant, capable of treating 100 million gallons per day, was finished in 2008. The privately developed Carlsbad Desalination Project – which will be the largest desalination plant in the nation, producing up to 50 million gallons per day – is under construction, and the water authority expects to start receiving water from the plant to bolster regional supplies by early 2016.

Finally, the San Vicente Dam Raise is nearing completion. That project will more than double the storage capacity of San Vicente Reservoir, providing increased regional protection from droughts or other emergencies that limit water supplies.

In conjunction with the master plan update, the board also approved the water authority’s first climate action plan, a voluntary strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. The authority said it expects to meet the state target of reducing emissions by 15 percent by 2020.

Details about the master plan are available online at

— From a San Diego County Water Authority press release


Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.