News About the North Bay Water Reuse Authority

Supervisors clear up Coombsville/MST water project details

By Bill Dodd and Keith Caldwell

Commentary, Napa Valley Register, 11/10/13

All Americans enjoy the right to free speech, but that important right also comes with responsibilities, so we simply could not ignore the misrepresentations and outright untruths contained in the commentary “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” (Oct. 31), and the letter “Coombsville/MST area residents should be wary of wastewater” (Nov. 4).

What motivates some people to deliberately misinform their neighbors and attempt to arouse them with fictitious and alarmist statements? Briefly and specifically, your readers should know:

  • The approved project to bring recycled water to the MST area to offset the use of groundwater includes 5 miles of pipeline and one pump station. Napa Sanitation District has committed to providing up to 700 acre-feet per year of recycled water annually.
  • Property owners in the area can choose to tax themselves to build the project. No one pays if they do not want to; no one pays more than they agree to.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has committed to funding 25 percent of the project construction costs through the North Bay Water Reuse Authority (NBWRA).
  • After decades of use in California, recycled water has been shown to be safe for irrigation, landscaping, groundwater recharge and a host of other building uses.
    We’re happy to offer more detail for those who are interested. In 2008, Napa County, Napa Sanitation District and the NBWRA agreed to study an ambitious project to address the groundwater deficiency in the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay (MST) area.

The recycled water project we studied then would have included 17 miles of pipelines and five pumping stations, and would deliver enough water to enough users to equal the groundwater overdraft identified by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The project’s environmental impact report/statement (EIR/EIS) went through an exhaustive public information process, in accordance with state and federal laws. When it was determined that there wasn’t sufficient public support for the complete solution, in 2009, the Napa County  Board of Supervisors approved proceeding only with a downsized MST Local Project.

That is the project currently proposed, and the only project that can be built without further approvals by the Board of Supervisors in a public forum.

To fund the proposed construction, the Board of Supervisors authorized the creation of a Community Facilities District (CFD) in 2012. The CFD allows property owners to tax themselves to fund the project.

Participation is strictly voluntary and the maximum tax on any volunteer was set right up front. Not everyone would pay the same amount, but no one will pay more than they agree to. Stating otherwise simply ignores the facts and the California Constitution.

Napa Valley Country Club has repeatedly demonstrated its support for a solution to the groundwater deficiency. It was also among the first to commit its assets and is funding the largest share of the costs. So far, the country club has been joined by 25 more properties, large and small, that want to contribute. They’ve put their money where their mouth is for the next 20 years.

Recycled water has been used in California for decades, to irrigate fodder crops, food crops and landscaping, and for groundwater recharge. There has not been a single, documented instance of a negative health effect related to recycled water use. Statements like “the end of drinkable well water in Coombsville” are unfounded and irresponsible.

In summary, climate change and drought pose threats to the water supplies of all Californians. Appropriate use of recycled water is a fundamental means of combating shortages. Every gallon of recycled water delivered in MST is a gallon of groundwater saved. It’s that simple.

(Dodd and Caldwell are Napa County Supervisors, District 4 and District 5, respectively.)