JURUPA VALLEY – A $51 million state grant awarded to the Western Municipal Water District in support of expansion of two desalinization plants will boost the region’s water supplies while creating jobs, California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said today.
The Department of Public Health awarded the Riverside-based district $51 million under a Proposition 50 program titled ”Southern California Projects to Reduce Demand on Colorado River Water.”
”This grant provides a boost to one of the hardest hit economies in the nation, and it will supply more than 1 million residents with a local, stable water supply while creating local jobs and supporting the economy,” Chapman said as he was among officials gathered at the district’s Jurupa Valley desalter facility to celebrate the grant.
The dispersal coincides with a $4 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
All the funds will go toward the $130 million expansion of the district’s Chino II desalter facility in Jurupa Valley and its nearby Chino I desalter. The facilities supply 24 million gallons of drinking water daily to Chino, Jurupa Valley, Norco and Ontario, a district official said.
The expansion project is slated for completion in November 2015, and once fully operational, will translate to an additional 10 million gallons in daily supplies for more than 1.5 million inland residents, according to the district.
”Collaborating to meet our region’s water needs for today, tomorrow and the future has taken us one step closer to drought-proofing our region,” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Riverside, said.
”The significant amount of state and federal funds awarded for this expansion sends a message that the Inland Empire’s water sustainability projects are of critical importance.”
Desalters remove salt, dissolved minerals and other deposits from groundwater to make it potable.
Like other area water suppliers, the district is searching for ways to conserve fresh water stocks. The district has implemented a tiered rate system that penalizes customers who exceed certain levels of indoor and outdoor consumption — so-called household ”water budgets.”
The goal is to prevent waste, but the rate structure has angered many property owners.
In Woodcrest, some homeowners recently complained that they would have to abandon outdoor watering on larger lots to avoid paying water bills in excess of $1,000 a month.
One Riverside homeowner told City News Service he was paying double what he did for using roughly the same amount of water while a Riverside Public Utilities customer.
District spokeswoman Michele McKinney-Underwood said that its costs are higher than neighboring suppliers, like Riverside Public Utilities, because of where the water is originating.
”RPU’s water supply is in large basins located underneath the Santa Ana River Watershed, fed by snow and rain in the San Bernardino Mountains, just a few miles away,” McKinney-Underwood said.
”Western, comparatively, imports about 80 percent of our water through the Metropolitan Water District, who gets the water … more than 400 miles away in the northern Sierras and Bay Delta, and from the east, 200-plus miles via the Colorado River Aqueduct.
”The farther away the water supply, the more energy it takes to deliver it, which also increases costs.”
According to district officials, expanding the desalinization plants will reduce the agency’s reliance on imports, contributing to lower costs and sparing customers bigger bills.