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Coastkeeper sues water authority
By Deborah Sullivan Brennan, .April 28, 2014

The San Diego County Water Authority must do more to address the environmental impacts of its water supply sources, San Diego Coastkeeper said in a new lawsuit.

The suit, filed Monday in San Diego Superior Court, cites alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Very simply, the water authority is charged with providing water to our local region,” said Matt O’Malley, waterkeeper for the conservation organization. “It’s important for us to see a plan that adequately accounts for environmental and greenhouse-gas impacts.”

Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the water authority, said in a statement that the master plan already does so.

“The water authority’s documents not only meet the letter of the law, they are good for the environment and good for the region,” Weinberg said.

The authority’s water supply plan, called the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, provides a blueprint through 2035, including how the region could adapt to a hotter and drier climate. The agency approved it this year along with an environmental impact report and climate action plan, which projects a 15 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions from 2009 to 2020.

Coastkeeper argued in public hearings that the plans didn’t adequately account the energy used to treat and transport water, said Everett DeLano, the Escondido land use attorney representing the organization in the case.

For instance, he said, it should have better addressed greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts of water imported from Northern California and the Imperial Valley, or the expected energy of the Poseidon desalination plant under construction in Carlsbad.

The agency’s own ability to ensure secure water supplies depends in part on its role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, O’Malley said.

“Climate change could potentially cause more frequent or longer droughts, which could lead to more prolonged water shortages for our region,” he said.

The authority should have compensated for those impacts by placing a higher priority on water conservation and reuse, Coastkeeper argued in the lawsuit.

Weinberg said, however, that the plans detail extensive efforts to conserve and reuse water through projects such as potable reuse of wastewater, in order to delay the need for additional regional water supplies over the next 25 years.

“The master plan update continues to place an increased emphasis on water conservation and local water supply development in San Diego County,” he said in the statement.


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