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Supervisors approve grant application resolution for Santa Margarita Preserve water system upgrade

The state’s Department of Water Resources has a County Drought Resilience Planning Assistance Program which provides up to $125,000 in financial assistance or direct technical assistance to access one-time support to establish a standing Drought and Water Shortage Task Force and develop a County Drought Resilience Plan.

An April 10 San Diego County Board of Supervisors action approved a County Drought Resilience Planning Assistance Program grant application resolution to fund the design of water system improvements at four county parks including Santa Margarita Preserve.

The supervisors’ 4-0 vote, with Terra Lawson-Remer absent, adopted the resolution and authorized county Department of Parks and Recreation Director Brian Albright or his designee to submit all necessary grant application documents and conduct negotiations regarding the grant application which also covers three county parks in Lakeside. The grant will allow the county to prepare the final construction documents for water system improvements at those four parks.

State legislation passed in 2021 requires state and local governments to share responsibility for preparing and acting in the case of a water shortage event. The legislation provides new requirements for small water suppliers, county governments, the Department of Water Resources, and the State Water Resources Control Board to implement more proactive drought planning and to be better prepared for future water shortage events or dry years.

Each county is required to have a standing drought task force to facilitate drought and water shortage preparedness for state small water systems (defined as systems which pipe water to between 5 and 14 service connections and provide drinking water to fewer than 25 people on a regular basis), domestic wells, and other privately supplied homes within the county’s jurisdiction.

Each county must also develop a plan demonstrating the potential drought and water shortage risk and proposed interim and long-term solutions for state small water systems and domestic wells within the county.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 13 small water systems which serve day use neighborhood parks, community parks, and preserves including Santa Margarita Preserve and Wilderness Gardens Preserve.

The 13 locations provide service to an average of 9,000 monthly users and have between one and three potable and/or non-potable water tanks ranging in size from 5,000 to 60,000 gallons which draw water from natural well water sources or natural springs.

Some of those small water systems were installed more than 25 years ago and have surpassed their useful lives. The deferred maintenance on the small water systems has resulted in several emergency projects ranging from repair of failing tanks and well pumps to mandating boil water orders. Those failures negatively impact water service reliability, quality, and the use of the facilities.

During 2023, DPR completed a Countywide Small Water System Emergency Action Plan Assessment which found that eight of the 13 parks, including Santa Margarita Preserve, showed extensive deterioration in their small water systems.

The purpose of the assessment was to perform preliminary reporting of existing conditions for each park’s small water systems. The assessment included topographical and geotechnical reports, identification of electrical and mechanical components, plumbing, conceptual plans for a temporary tank, and general system site plans. DPR has completed the 30% design phase for upgrades at those eight parks.

Santa Margarita Preserve, El Monte Park, Oakoasis Preserve, and Louis A. Stelzer County Park were identified as the four most qualified parks to meet the DWR grant criteria. The grant funding would cover the remainder of the county’s design consultant costs required to advance design of recommended improvement plans from 30% completion to final construction documents.

The design documents will include improvements to potable and non-potable water tanks, distribution lines, well pumps, and pressure tanks and/or chlorination systems to prevent catastrophic failures and to re-establish high-quality and reliable water service at those locations.

The total estimated cost for the improvement plans is $400,000, and county general fund money will complement the DWR grant. The scope of the project will be adjusted if DWR does not award the grant funding. If the grant funding is approved final construction documents for the improvements at the four parks will be prepared by the end of 2025.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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