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GRF continues to explore water-security options

Officials meet with EBMUD, Central San as follow-up to successful town hall

By Leanne Hamaji

GRF Board vice president

As a follow-up to the town hall meeting on the “Future of Water in Central Contra Costa County” held in October, GRF officials met with representatives from the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (Central San) and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) on Nov. 29.

The meeting was held to thank both organizations for the informative and successful town hall and to continue to explore options for increased water security for all of Rossmoor. Foremost on the agenda was to find ways to ensure that Rossmoor has access to water to maintain its functional green space, golf courses, and, secondly, to broaden the availability of recycled water for the entire community’s irrigation needs.

GRF has been studying whether to build its own Satellite Wastewater Recycle Facility (SWRF) to divert some sewage water otherwise destined for the Central San central treatment facility in Pacheco, and recycle that water and use it to keep Rossmoor’s golf courses green.

GRF was represented at the meeting by Director of Resident Services Jeff Matheson, board President Dwight Walker and Vice President Leanne Hamaji.

Representatives from Central San included General Manager Roger Bailey, Resource Recovery Program Manager Melody LaBella, Communications and Governmental Relations Manager Emily Barnett and board President Dave Williams.

Representatives from EBMUD included Senior Community Affairs Representative Mona Favorite-Hill, Manager of Water Conservation Alice Towey and Senior Civil Engineer Florence Wedington.

The conversation included defining EBMUD conservation policies that affect Rossmoor, notably those regarding functional versus non-functional turf. Golf courses, as businesses, are considered functional turf but are strongly urged to conserve water by removing areas of non-functional turf and/or replacing them with drought-tolerant landscaping.

EBMUD works closely with Rossmoor’s golf management staff and is very aware of what Rossmoor has already done to conserve water on the Creekside and Dollar courses. To date, over 12 acres of non-functional turf has been removed from Rossmoor golf courses, with approximately 10 to 12 additional acres planned for the coming years.

The conservation efforts made by Rossmoor have been held up as an example to other communities. GRF asked EBMUD for a copy of the functional/non-functional turf policy to thoroughly understand the policy and ensure that Rossmoor is better prepared for future water reductions.

EBMUD officials stated that their goal is to provide water security to their customers at 85% reliability and not have to resort to water restrictions beyond 15%. However, they indicated that in the case of catastrophic drought, state requirements may force them to restrict beyond 15%. They indicated that even in those circumstances, Rossmoor’s golf courses, as functional turf, should not lose water for tees, greens and fairways. Rough areas are considered nonfunctional turf and may face deeper restrictions.

EBMUD officials went on to say that they and state regulators have abandoned using a “base year of usage” to determine mandatory restrictions on water use in extreme drought situations. They are converting to “efficiency of water usage.”

GRF asked for a copy of any documents regarding this new method, and EBMUD said that it would follow up. It cited Rossmoor’s golf courses as a great example of improved efficiencies in water usage.

Also discussed was exploring the use of an unused Shell pipeline from Pleasant Hill to Tice Valley to transport recycled water from Martinez to the area. That option has limits such as the age of the pipe, requirement to line the pipe, and lack of access to the pipe that elevate the cost of the project.

Further study of this project would better identify costs and obstacles and could cost upwards of $150,000 for the studies alone. This option is projected to only provide enough non-potable recycled water for the golf courses.

EBMUD is in favor of Rossmoor paying for and operating its own Satellite Water Recycling Facility because it reduces potable water usage at no cost to EBMUD. The feasibility of a SWRF has been under consideration for several years, and around $500,000 has been spent so far on that study. Further spending has been placed on pause by the GRF Board until all other options have been explored.

EBMUD was asked whether there was a way for Rossmoor to contractually commit to future water purchases as a way of achieving water security. EBMUD rightfully pointed out that it does not engage in that sort of practice to ensure equal access to water throughout the region.

Central San reintroduced a concept from the town hall meeting to put 20 million to 24 million gallons a day of unsubscribed recycled water to use through an “exchange” with EBMUD. It will pursue this option if EBMUD expresses interest. This exchange concept frees up potable water for more appropriate uses in the region.

Both Central San and EBMUD reiterated from the town hall meeting that the long-term solution to water security in Central Contra Costa County is indirect and direct potable reuse. That would serve all water needs of local communities and not just golf courses and cemeteries.

The meeting concluded with an in-depth look at water conservation. Both agencies urged Rossmoor residents, GRF and Mutuals to replace non-functional turf with drought-resilient plants requiring limited irrigation.

All options to gain water security in the future are being explored by the GRF Planning Committee and Board. GRF is pleased to have the cooperation of Central San and EBMUD to assist in this effort.