Because of an aggressive program to enforce the state-mandated reduction in water use, the Valley Center Municipal Water District exceeded reductions below the 36 percent mandate in June, July and September.
The conservation measures have not come easy for customers or for the district. Over that same period, program implementation totaled just over $212,000 including labor, overtime, special programing, printing and postage and conservation advertising, according to general manager Gary Arant.
Through the end of September, district revenues were down $579,000 which represents a 6 percent loss in local operating revenue for the current fiscal year. If the same loss rate continues, there will be a total net revenue loss of $1,390,000, or 14.5 percent, according to Arant.
“Obviously, with the commitment and cooperation of our customers, the water demand reduction programs have been effective,” Arant said. “With the prospects still very promising for an El Niño year, it is likely that the district will meet the mandatory reduction levels by all customer categories.”
Arrant said the districts financial reserves will be used to offset the losses. But, “beyond that, we will have to look at revenue enhancements to sustain operations and infrastructure investments.”
The 36 percent state mandate ends in February 2016 and agricultural reductions end on June 30, 2016. Arant said the district is concerned that reduced water demand will continue into next year and possibly the long-term for the following reasons:
State Regulations: Indications are that even if this is an El Niño year, it is likely that some form of drought emergency regulation will be kept in place. While regulations may be modified to ease the percentage restrictions or possibly rectify some of the gross inequities in the current regulations, some level of conservation mandate will likely be held in place. Beyond the drought emergency, there are very clear signals that the governor wants to implement permanent statewide water use standards for domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural uses.
Supply Uncertainties: While the El
Niño is almost a certainty, what is not certain is where it will hit and how much snow pack will accumulate versus warm rain and uncaptured run-off. The district has learned that the highest likelihood of above normal precipitation will be experienced in central and southern California, with the percentages falling off in watershed areas of the State Water Project in northern California. This could cause water delivery problems from the upper state resource, according to Arant.
If the El Niño bypasses or has minimal effect on those areas of the state, deliveries from the SWP will be impacted.
For the current year, low water deliveries from the SWP are being supplemented by a full Colorado River Aqueduct and draws from Metropolitan Water District storage assets, Arant said.
If deliveries from SWP remain low, it is likely that deliveries to its member agencies could be further reduced beyond
15 percent. While this would not impact domestic and commercial customers, it would impact the district’s agricultural customers as their reduction level is directly tied to the reduction in deliveries by MWD.
Even though water demand and sales revenues may be down for the short and possibly the long-term, service and infrastructure investment demands on the district will not diminish. operations and capital replacement and upgrades will continue to draw district resources.
Along with the district-driven projects, the district is obligated to respond to San Diego County road improvement projects. For example, the Valley Center Road Improvement Project from Cole Grade Road west cost the district more than $6 million. Cole Grade Road from Fruitvale Road north is slated for 2017 and is estimated to cost $3 million. Improving Valley Center Road from Cole Grade east cannot be too far behind.
Despite the short-term financial challenges brought by the drought and the likely long-term reductions in water demands, the district must continue to operate and maintain the water and wastewater infrastructure as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, Arant said.