[Full story published Aug. 20] The Rancho Murieta Community Services District board of directors heard from a former board president and released a letter answering claims that have been made about water availability and CSD drought planning at its meeting Wednesday.
Richard Brandt, who was a CSD director when the district developed and adopted its current water policy in 1990, addressed the board during public comments. "It appeared to me there is significant confusion about water policy objectives and that's why I'm here," he said. "…The one that I am concerned with is, What do you do to avoid being forced into the situation where you have to adopt a 50 percent conservation policy?" Brandt said that is the subject of a letter he sent to the board.
"…The reality is I don't know what the numbers are. I don't know what's right," he said. "But I'll tell you, my concerns on the subject would be diminished to the point where I wouldn't spend any time thinking about it if you had a well, had some alternate source of water other than the Cosumnes River."
Brandt said he had talked with development critic Janis Eckard, who has made presentations to the Rancho Murieta Association and the CSD boards questioning the availability of water and the adequacy of CSD drought planning. Brandt said Eckard, who attended Wednesday's meeting, had given him documents that allowed him to recollect what occurred 25 years ago "when I was dealing with this very issue."
He continued, "I've told her, first of all, I don't know if you're right on any of these issues. Second of all, you're probably not, and third, you're not crazy, at least from my perspective on the standpoint of the emergency policy, which is not to plan for 50 percent. You can be forced into it, but to try to avoid it if that's possible. You, Janis Eckard, have a legitimate concern."
Brandt has added a comment to the Forums here, expanding on this point.
Brandt said he has also talked repeatedly to CSD General Manager Ed Crouse, who has been singled out by Eckard in her criticisms of the CSD. Brandt said Crouse "told me what he's doing and I think he's doing exactly the right thing from the standpoint of seeking groundwater and that, in my view, is the most important thing that the board should be concerned about, and for all I know all the numbers you're getting are absolutely correct."
President Bobbi Belton told Brandt the board had received his letter, and it was included in the August meeting packet.
"By the way, it was nice for somebody in this community to say Ed Crouse is doing the right thing. I hope that quote is written everywhere," Belton remarked.
Brandt summarized his concerns by saying, "The real problem here is if you don't do anything you're going to get into an enormous fight with the developers down the line because you will get to the situation where you do not have water adequate to satisfy the emergency concerns of the residents and you will have a developer who will insist they are entitled to further development. … Those people who have not dealt with PTF … do not know litigation."
Murietan Janis Eckard, left, questions CSD consultant Lisa A. Maddaus during Wednesday's meeting.
Eckard referred to Brandt's letter in a presentation she made at the RMA meeting Tuesday night. She said Brandt stated in his letter "that the 50 percent drought usage reduction rate was manipulated to settle a dispute between the developers and the CSD … (and) was never intended to set water policy … and most important, the agreement expired in 2006 and is no longer binding on the CSD or developers." Her comments and other material Eckard presented at the RMA are available here. Eckard provided her comments to the CSD for inclusion in the Integrated Water Master Plan Update being prepared by a consultant, but didn't repeat her presentation at the CSD meeting.
During a review of the administrative draft Wednesday, Eckard asked questions of consultant Lisa A. Maddaus, principal engineer with Brown and Caldwell.
Crouse opened the discussion by saying current data is used to test, validate and redefine the plan's assumptions. The 2006 plan is being updated to accommodate the effects of a state mandate to reduce per capita water use by 20 percent by 2020, a recycled water analysis the CSD did and other changes, Crouse said. According to Crouse, the plan provides "a margin of safety" of 18 percent for water planning by using 750 gallons per day for new lots instead of the actual water use of 680 gallons per day for an estate lot.
"The bottom line is we're not running out of water," Crouse said. Present and approved projects total between 3,100 and 3,200 homes, well below the development threshold established in the district's water Policy 90-2, which says new drought supplies will be needed at 3,500 homes. There's "enough water for the foreseeable future," even under drought conditions, Crouse said.
The six-page letter that was made available to the media at the end of the meeting makes that point again. It's addressed to "residents and valued customers" and is being mailed to residents. The letter explains the district's drought policy and refutes claims that the CSD manipulated data and assumptions in the Integrated Water Master Plan. In defense of lowering reservoir evaporation and seepage losses from 25 to 20 percent, the letter quotes an independent peer review funded by the county as noting the reduction "was supported by statistical analysis."
Drought conservation of 50 percent during a 200-year drought, which has a 0.5 percent chance of occurring in any given year, "is appropriate and achievable and it is supported by evidence," according to the letter. The district water's policy provides for 25 percent conservation in a 100-year drought event. Drought plans for two other water districts are included for comparison. According to the letter, the county peer review states that Metropolitan Water District ("the biggest water district in California") calls for a 25 percent cutback in water usage in a 50-year drought and there is "no mention of conservation" for 200-year drought.
The letter is available here.
The Integrated Water Master Plan Update will be available for a 30-day comment period Sept. 1, and goes to the board for approval in October.
The West Yost & Associates peer review of CSD water and sewer planning goes before the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors 11 a.m. Wednesday at the County Administration Center, 700 H St., Sacramento. Live coverage of the meeting will be available here.