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The Rancho Murieta Community Services District board of directors approved a budget for 2013-14 that will increase the average monthly bill for water, sewer, drainage, security and trash collection services 4.55 percent. At the CSD meeting last week, directors received a presentation on the costs and possibilities for expanding the use of recycled wastewater as the community grows. Current potable water usage was also discussed, and the board saw a mock-up of a CSD bill that will show residents how their water usage compares with similar lots.

2013-14 budget, rate increases approved

The board voted 4-1 to adopt the 2013-14 budget and ordinances amending rates, with Director Mike Martel dissenting.

Director of Administration Darlene Gillum attributed the bulk of the budget increases to pre-funding required for a $1.5 million rehab of the water treatment plant and a permanent spray field for recycled wastewater.

“It’s best to pay as you go rather than be hit with a larger bill later on,” Director Paul Gumbinger remarked. “Actually only half a percent is really the increase for services. The rest is paying ahead for the work we have planned....”

Director Betty Ferraro noted that the funding for the projects will be placed in reserves, and agreed with Gumbinger that “it’s better to pay it now, a little at a time, than be hit with a great big assessment that we can’t afford. ... We’re planning for the future....”

Gillum listed the monthly rate increases as $3.12 for water, $3.38 for sewer (which includes a 27-cent reduction in the cost of day-to-day operations), 30 cents for a 64-gallon waste container, 9 cents for drainage, and 38 cents for security to increase the average monthly bill from $159.99 to $167.26.

Recycled water use for new development

The CSD adopted a policy in 2011 for the future use of recycled water whenever it is economically and physically feasible.

The CSD currently supplies the Country Club with reclaimed wastewater to irrigate the golf courses. The club needs 550 acre-feet yearly and the available supply is 450 acre-feet, so the club uses river water to make up the shortfall.

But as the community grows, more recycled water will become available than the club can use. How much recycled water will be available and how it can be used are the focus of a draft report. The study concludes that expanding the recycled water program to serve residential and commercial landscapes and existing parkland is more cost effective than using neighboring pasture land as spray fields. The cost of the two options ranges from $20 million to $24 million.

Consultant Kevin Kennedy of AECOM prepared the report, which is funded by a grant the CSD received from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Demand vs. production

Kennedy outlined wastewater production and recycled water demands for two phases of development planned for Rancho Murieta. The first phase consists of Murieta Gardens, the mixed commercial and residential project planned for 50-plus acres across from Murieta Plaza; the Residences of Murieta Hills and the Retreat developments on the North; and the Riverview and Lakeview subdivisions on the South. Occupancy of this phase is expected in the 2016-2019 timeframe, according to the report.

The second phase consists of projects on the North described in the Mutual Benefit Agreement between the Rancho Murieta Association and property owner Pension Trust Fund. The estimated occupancy timeframe for Phase 2 is 2020-2026.

Kennedy said the recycled water demand for these future developments plus Stonehouse Park is 1,075 acre-feet per year, but future recycled water production is estimated to be 920 acre-feet, leaving about 350 acre-feet per year after the Country Club’s needs are met. “In other words, we don’t have enough recycled water to serve all the development in the future,” Kennedy said.

That will work out because some developments can be supplied with recycled water more readily than others, he explained.

The study calls the Lakeview and Riverview developments the least cost-effective candidates for recycled water service despite their proximity to the South Course irrigation system since California Department of Public Health requirements preclude the use of open reservoirs like Bass Lake. Instead, tanks are mandated to maintain water quality.  Kennedy said that essentially removed improvements associated with the South Course, which reduced overall costs for pipeline, storage tanks and pump stations.

The most cost-effective recycled water service areas are located along the existing recycled water main serving the North golf course, according to the study. Murieta Gardens, the Retreats, the Residences of Murieta Hills, the Escuela property and Stonehouse Park are among the recommended areas for recycled water service.

A component of the study is the CSD’s effort to reduce costs by utilizing the system that serves the Country Club.

According to Kennedy, there are some improvements that would be made under either alternative: replacement of the Fairway 17 pump station and slip-lining aging pipes, upgrading the chlorine disinfection system to provide more contact time, and adding 240 acre-feet of seasonal storage at the wastewater plant, “the big ticket item” at $6 million.

Cost concerns

Effluent disposal will be a development cost. Although apportioning cost was not in the scope of the report, Kennedy said he realized developers are concerned about it. He suggested options that include seeking Bureau of Reclamation Title XVI (Water Reclamation and Reuse) funding, asking the California Department of Public Health to reconsider the requirement for storage tanks, and coordinating infrastructure so “piggybacking” could occur to reduce costs.

Benefits of recycled water use

According to the report, the proposed recycled water system expansion would achieve the following:

  • Reduce future Cosumnes River diversions
  • Offset potable water demands by approximately 370 acre-feet per year and conserve surface water supplies
  • Help the CSD meet the 20x2020 Water Conservation Goals (20 percent reduction in per capita  water use by 2020)
  • Provide opportunities to serve other potential users along the recycled water transmission pipeline alignment
  • Support regional water planning efforts
  • Provide a sustainable and long-term means for treated effluent disposal that is directly linked to strengthening the local economy
  • Increase water supply reliability and reduce drought deficits
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as the district’s overall carbon footprint due to reduced potable water diversions and treatment requirements
  • Contribute to the statewide recycled water goals and demonstrate the District’s willingness to manage its available resources in a responsible and progressive manner
  • Contribute to the recovery of the Central Basin and Delta and Cosumnes River ecosystems

The board approved releasing the draft study for public comment. It appears on the CSD web site, rmcsd.com. The PowerPoint presentation is available here. The study is expected to come back to the board next month.

Reducing water usage

The board voted to accept the final summary of a technical memorandum on water usage and demand prepared by Maddaus Water Management Inc. Customer billing data from 1998 through 2012 was utilized to analyze the community’s usage trends.

The role of landscaping was apparent in the analysis, where two-story houses on larger lots emerged as major water users.

Consultant Lisa Maddaus encouraged the CSD to work with the Rancho Murieta Association to implement county and state landscape ordinances intended to reduce water use.

As a special district, the CSD can also pass its own ordinance and enforce compliance, Maddaus said. She said the more landscaping there is, the higher the demand for water.

Director Paul Gumbinger said he served on the RMA Architectural Review Committee for 10 years and the CSD’s help was needed to reduce lawn areas because there was nothing in the RMA architectural guidelines to limit landscaping. He added that he thought the new CSD billing format will help people see how their water use compares with their neighbors’ usage. Bills with the new format will appear  in August, according to staff.

Instead of setting limits on the amount of turf, which becomes “a lightning rod,” Maddaus advocated using landscape budgets, which are more flexible.  As an example, she said you can’t use Kentucky blue grass and meet county codes.

She explained that the formula for the water budget sets a threshold and “designs need to be less than that.”

Maddaus said plans, options and education about water-wise landscaping are readily available, and General Manager Ed Crouse pointed out the CSD also offers rebates for drip conversions, irrigation controllers and other water-saving items.  The district has plans to offer “cash for grass” in the future for lawn changeovers, he said.

CSD begins process for reclamation permit

The board authorized spending $107,275 from sewer replacement reserves to prepare a submittal package to obtain a master reclamation permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The master permit would give the CSD authority to administer and monitor permits for recycled water use in the community.

The proposal from consultant AECOM incorporates recycled water standards and “it’s an engineering report that defines how we’re going to operate the system,” General Manager Ed Crouse said.

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