By Councilmember Steve Knoblock
Our government was created to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
One of the essential elements of our general welfare is the safe and secure delivery of water to our homes. I’m not talking about the 352 quintillion gallons of salty ocean water off our shore, but the approximately eight million gallons of fresh water we, the people of San Clemente, use every day.
As we all know, our fresh water is currently imported from melting snowpacks hundreds of miles away.
Our current system of delivering water is more than 110 years old, and the method and technology are just as archaic.
First, we build a damn on a river, like the Plume River in Northern California, which flows into Lake Oroville 530 miles from San Clemente, or the Colorado River that’s only 230 miles away. Then we dig hundreds of miles of canals with scores of massive pumping stations to push the water over the various mountain ranges between here and there.
This antiquated water delivery system, similar to the old Roman aqueducts, costs Californians a staggering $2 billion every year to maintain, and San Clemente pays its share.
Reliable water is the lifeblood of every healthy and prosperous community. Unfortunately, our water system exists in a state of perpetual risk from recurring droughts and earthquake faults traversing the canals and conduits.
San Clemente is at the very end of this delivery system. A major interruption event to this old and fragile water supply chain would affect us long before our neighbors, and to a greater degree. Experts predict that a major disaster to the system could cut off water supply for six months to a year.
It is like the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over us. Thank God, no major interruptions have befallen us in the hundred-year life of our aging water delivery system. But time is not on our side.
Water canals have served us well, just like the horse and buggy, Detroit V8 gas-guzzlers or 8-track cassettes. I believe it is time to bring our water delivery system into the 21st century. If we have the will and the foresight, we can put in place an unlimited supply of fresh water.
Oceangoing cruise ships and cargo vessels are routinely producing tens of thousands of gallons of fresh drinking water every day. A growing number of municipalities are also producing fresh drinking water from the ocean in a much larger scale.
For more than 20 years, Santa Barbara has operated a desalinization plant, which produces more than two million gallons per day of fresh drinking water for its residents. Our neighbor to the south, Carlsbad, recently completed a desalinization facility that produces 40 million gallons of fresh drinking water per day, freeing its citizens from relying on imported water and the threat of droughts.
Our next-door neighbor, the South Coast Water District (SCWD), has successfully operated a desalinization pilot project and completed the financial and environmental analysis in preparation for the construction of a multimillion-gallon-per-day fresh water facility on its existing property next to the San Juan Creek.
They are looking to partner with a neighboring city or water district to share the cost and the benefits of unlimited fresh water. San Clemente is the logical choice to partner with SCWD.
Let’s do our due diligence and partner with SCWD to assure unlimited fresh water for our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
Steven Knoblock was elected to a two-year term on the San Clemente City Council in 2020.
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