On September 13, 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved California American Water’s (Cal Am) Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, estimated to cost $329 million. An environmental review conducted by the CPUC and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary found the project to be the least impactful and most environmentally beneficial way to address the area’s water shortage. Cal Am expects to complete the project by 2021, the state’s mandated deadline to significantly reduce reliance on the Carmel River, which currently supplies a majority of the region’s water.
Comprising a desalination plant, expansion of an existing aquifer storage and recovery program, and purchase of recycled water, the project also features “slant groundwater wells,” rather than “open ocean” intake systems, which will virtually eliminate any harm to sea life. Additionally, the project will protect the community from the effects of future droughts by creating a sustainable water supply without relying on rainfall or groundwater.
In a September 13 press release, Cal Am’s President Rich Svindland said, “Today’s approval brings us closer to solving the Monterey Peninsula’s water supply issues. It is a huge step forward toward establishing a sustainable water supply that will meet the community’s water needs and protect the Carmel River.”
In a subsequent quote in the Monterey Herald, Svindland said, “‘This is a crucial milestone in the development of a new water supply for the Monterey Peninsula,’ noting that the complex project that involved three cities and 79 conditions of approval was the company’s second largest capital project delivered on budget.”
CPUC Commissioner Liane M. Randolph explained in the CPUC’s press release, “This decision puts the Monterey Peninsula on the road from water poverty to water security, with water that will be safe, reliable, and drought proof. It does so with protections for ratepayers against unreasonable costs and protections of the environment against adverse impacts while providing Cal Am with the best opportunity to meet its customer needs at just and reasonable rates. The CPUC fully considered a range of realistic and reasonable alternatives and finds that this project is the best choice.”
Water rate relief bonds will be issued by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to provide savings to customers, and throughout the construction phase of the project, Cal Am will post progress reports on its website.