What's Driving Rates for Safe, Reliable Water?
Removing Naturally Occurring Arsenic
Arsenic occurs naturally in sediments and groundwater, and water districts must make sure levels in drinking water are safe. The Environmental Protection Agency decided in 2001 to lower the maximum contaminant level of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. The Coachella Valley Water District was required to conduct extensive monitoring to identify arsenic occurrence throughout the Coachella Valley. It then had to implement an $18 million compliance plan ($13 million in capital costs to evaluate and install a water supply and treatment infrastructure and another $1 million annually to operate and maintain these facilities and to dispose of arsenic residuals created during the treatment process).
Making Sure Non-Native Species Don’t Damage or Hinder the Water System
Efforts to protect water systems from the infiltration and spread of debilitating non-native species like quagga mussels have added another unforeseen drain on budgets, particularly over the past five years. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, for example, is now spending $4 million a year to contain the spread of quagga mussels that can clog and compromise pipelines and other water facilities. The cost includes activities such as monitoring, diving, facility shutdowns, and boat inspections at reservoirs. The district has spent more than $30 million since quagga mussels were first discovered in a key reservoir on the Colorado River in 2007.
New Pollution Regulations Mean Higher Costs for Consumers
California’s upcoming cap-and-trade program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could require some water suppliers to purchase costly pollution allowances to offset the energy they use from fossil-fuel power plants. The regulations are also expected to add at least $20 million a year to the cost of operating the State Water Project, which serves 25 million Californians. The combined impact will translate into higher costs for water that will be passed on to consumers.