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Rainbow Water issues conservation advisory

RAINBOW — A 10-day shutdown of a pipeline that provides water to much of Northern San Diego County has prompted Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) officials to issue a conservation advisory, spend more than $88,000 to rent portable pumps and take other steps aimed at ensuring adequate supplies.

Beginning February 8 and continuing through February 17, water will not flow through one of two pipelines that supply many water districts in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Due to factors that include dramatic elevation differences, Rainbow is among the water districts that will face significant supply challenges.

If the weather is rainy or cool, the impacts of the shutdown could be minimal. If temperatures rise or if Santa Ana winds blow – as was the case with a similar shutdown three years ago – parts of Rainbow’s service area could experience supply shortages or outages.

“Everybody needs to pray for rain and do a little rain dance,” said Chuck Sneed, RMWD operations and maintenance manager, during a January 27 presentation to the district’s governing board.

As a result, Rainbow officials have asked growers and large agricultural customers to hold off watering until February 18, which is after pipeline flows resume and the district’s tanks and reservoirs can be returned to their normal levels.

They also thanked customers for their cooperation and apologized for any inconvenience the shutdown might cause.

Residential and commercial water users are asked to limit irrigation and conserve water wherever possible during the shutdown prompted by work at the Robert A. Skinner Water Treatment Plant northeast of Temecula.

Hot, dry weather conditions might prompt officials to implement mandatory conservation measures if demand threatens to deplete district reserves.

At the January 27 meeting, RMWD directors agreed to spend $88,076 to rent four large pumps that will be needed to see the district through the shutdown.

The pumps will be used on an as-needed basis but could operate 24 hours a day. Some customers who live near the pumps might hear noise from the temporary devices.

RMWD directors were also told that the fuel costs to operate all four pumps could total $1,000 a day. Staff costs to keep the pumps running could add another a few hundred dollars per day.

District employees have been told that work absences could be cut short if emergency circumstances arise.

Prior to the board meeting, Rainbow staff had begun filling the district’s reservoirs and tanks to capacity.

RMWD serves about 7,200 metered accounts throughout nearly 50,000 acres that blanket much of the Fallbrook, Rainbow and Bonsall areas.

Work at the Lake Skinner treatment plant – which serves four million residents of the two-county region – will halt the flows in a pipeline that flanks the west side of Interstate 15 and normally supplies water to Rainbow through six connections.

A pipeline that flanks the east side of the freeway will operate as usual and continue to serve Rainbow through two existing connections.

“We will have some water [flowing], and that’s a good thing,” Sneed said.

RMWD service areas south of Highway 76 – including the Gopher Canyon area – will be the most vulnerable to water shortages and pressure reductions during the shutdown, he said.

Reasons for the shutdown include a $400 million expansion of the treatment plant that will boost its output from 520 million gallons per day to 630 million gallons.

Much of that work, which is being done by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is expected to be finished later this year.

The San Diego County Water Authority – the wholesale agency that supplies Rainbow and many other local districts – will take advantage of the shutdown to inspect and repair its pipelines.

Weather conditions play a key role in managing supplies during such periodic shutdowns.

A heat wave that baked yards, groves and nurseries prompted Metropolitan to spend $250,000 to shave three days off a scheduled 11-day shutdown in February 2006.

Conversely, an 11-day plant shutdown went virtually unnoticed in November 2006 because the weather was cool and rain soaked much of the impacted area.

RMWD customers are asked to contact district officials at (760) 728-1178 with any questions or concerns about the shutdown.


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