By Peter Jensen, Napa Valley Register, 7/7/14
A recycled water pipeline 15 years in the planning process is preparing to break ground this month, and by 2015 should deliver 700 acre-feet of recycled water annually to the groundwater-deficient area east of the city of Napa that drains Milliken, Sarco and Tulocay creeks.
The $13.3 million project will be built to have 2,000-acre-feet capacity, should the Napa Sanitation District expand to deliver more recycled water in the future, and additional property owners sign up to use it for irrigation or landscaping, according to Napa County. One acre-foot of water is enough to supply 3 acres of vineyard annually, the county said.
A quarter of the project’s cost is being funded by the federal government, with the remaining share being carried by property owners through annual property tax assessments. The sanitation district recently awarded a $7.6 million contract to build the pipeline to a South Bay firm, Sanco Pipelines, and a $2.4 million contract to build a pump station to Livermore-based GSE Construction, according to the news release.
“This is great news for the MST area,” Napa County Supervisor Keith Caldwell said in a statement. “The groundwater aquifer there is overdrafted by about 2,000 acre feet per year, and the day this project is put into service, it will be able to deliver enough water to offset up to 35 percent of that overdraft. That percentage will only grow as more people opt in to use the water.”
The pipeline has been discussed among officials with the sanitation district, as well as property owners in the area, for years as a means of reducing the strain on groundwater beneath the MST area. In 1999, the Board of Supervisors declared the basin to be a groundwater-deficient area, and a 2003 U.S. Geological Survey study showed that the water table continued to decline.
The county instituted a hard cap on groundwater usage in the area a year later, ensuring new vineyard or winery projects in that region don’t result in net increases in groundwater usage compared with the current use on the property.
But those steps were only intended to slow the rate of decline, and the pipeline project has been considered by proponents to be the best measure at recharging the groundwater supplies. It still had plenty of opponents among residents in the area concerned the project was being foisted on them with overblown benefits compared with the costs.
The county and the sanitation district were able to extend the recycled water pipeline through the Napa State Hospital property and up Imola Avenue to Skyline Park, where it’s waited for the funding for the rest of the project to be ironed out.
Ultimately, the pipeline will extend up Fourth Avenue and eventually reach Hagen Road and the Napa Valley Country Club, one of the main sources of funding for the project, along with vineyards in the area. They and other property owners agreed to form an assessment district to fund $10 million of the project’s cost, which was used to secure a 20-year loan from the state government.
The project is also looking to get new grant money from the state, which has earmarked funding for drought relief. State lawmakers are also looking to set aside money specifically for recycled water projects in a bond measure worth billions of dollars that may be sent to voters in November.
Caldwell said the county’s membership in the North Bay Water Reuse Authority, a joint venture of Napa, Marin and Sonoma counties, as well as local water districts, helped secure federal funding for the project.
Property owners can still sign up for the recycled water project by contacting Deputy Public Works Director Phil Miller at 707-259-8600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Napa Mayor Jill Techel said the project breaking ground this summer has special significance in light of the ongoing severe drought California is experiencing.
“Especially in this time of drought, it is important to recover and reuse the valuable water resources we have available to us,” Techel said in a news release. “This is a great example of what can be accomplished (when) residents and local governments work together to solve a common problem.”