One Water Roadmap in Action on California's Central Coast

Radhika Fox, CEO, US Water Alliance | May 10, 2017

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of facilitating a panel at California Water Environment Association's Annual Conference. The panel--“Water Resiliency Leadership: One Water Solutions on California’s Central Coast"-- featured water utility directors Rebecca Bjork of Santa Barbara; Ben Fine of Pismo Beach; Carrie Mattingly of San Luis Obispo; Mike McCullough of Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency; and Joe McDermott of Ventura Water.

Consistent with the conference theme of “Celebrating the people of water,” the panel was an example of the exceptional leadership that is driving the one water movement. As a California resident, I was personally excited to learn from the experts about the water solutions being implemented in my own backyard. During the discussion, I was encouraged to find that the practices these utilities are implementing are well aligned with the principles outlined in the US Water Alliance’s One Water Roadmap. The discussion brought to light how these concepts are manifesting in different communities.

  • Building Partnerships for Progress in Pismo Beach: Working with the cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and the Oceano Community Services District, the City of Pismo Beach launched a recycled water project. This multi-municipality project involves developing a recycled water treatment and distribution system that will make recycled water available to the city, its customers, and others in the region. Regional collaboration around one water strategies has allowed the project to move forward. Although Pismo Beach and its collaborating agencies are small in scale, this partnership shows that even small agencies and cities have the capacity to make a difference.
  • Achieving multiple benefits in San Luis Obispo: At the intersection of flood and drought, we need to reconsider the way we manage water in California. One aspect of that is taking into account the triple bottom line in capital planning and decision making—considering economic, environmental and social implications of projects. The city of San Luis Obispo used this approach in developing its program charter for the upgrades to its Water Resource Recovery Facility, a multi-year project to improve existing water resource management facilities. This inclusive thinking will advance the one water movement and ensure a more sustainable and equitable future in San Luis Obispo.
  • Taking an integrated systems approach in Monterey: Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) and the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA) have partnered to develop an advanced water recycling project. Known as Pure Water Monterey, the regional project’s goal is to diversify Monterey’s water supply through its integrated water recycling approach, and serve as a model for other California communities. In addition to cutting down the amount of water taken from the Carmel River and the Seaside Basin and reducing groundwater pumping, Pure Water Monterey will improve the overall water quality in the Salinas Valley Basin.
  • Taking on long-term planning and watershed-scale thinking in Santa Barbara and Ventura: Despite recent rainfall in California, cities continue to grapple with water supply challenges. In 2011, the City of Santa Barbara adopted a Long Term Water Supply Plan that looks out to the year 2030. Taking into account California’s drought, the plan proposes an intelligent approach to conserve and manage water supplies. Similarly, Ventura Water has its sights set on diversifying its water supply, aiming to add direct potable reuse and desalination. With the drought and an increasing population creating more demand for water, the City of Ventura opened the VenturaPureWater Potable Reuse Demonstration Facility in 2015. This model has been successful in other California metro areas including San Diego and Los Angeles, and will make Ventura a more sustainable and resilient city.

At the US Water Alliance, we know that different cities face different water challenges and that the principles of one water managements will look differently in those communities. We produced the One Water Roadmap to build the field of practice and to make the case for why deploying one water strategies can lead to more sustainable and resilience water management. As we can see from these shining examples from California’s Central Coast, taking a one water approach to water management that incorporates regional collaboration, partnerships, and long-term planning at the watershed scale is essential to securing our water future.