Balancing current needs with future needs
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
Hemet-San Jacinto Watermaster advisor Behrooz Mortazavi gave a presentation explaining the role of Watermaster to the Hemet City Council during a work study prior to the Nov. 14 regular city council meeting. The Groundwater Resources Association of California states in Mortazavi’s bio that “For over two decades Behrooz Mortazavi was in charge of developing and implementing water resources management plans at Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD).”
“Sometimes there are misunderstandings between the Soboba settlement and the watermaster and they are different,” began Mortazavi. “They are not the same, but the are interlinked. I just wanted to explain that a little bit and then get into watermaster with the mission and objective and the stipulated judgement.”
Why we need a watermaster
“It was put in place by the United States [government], the Soboba tribe, Eastern Municipal Water District, Lake Hemet Water District and Metropolitan Water District,” stated Mortazavi. “The way these two are related is through a Water Management Plan (WMP). When the settlement was put in place, the settlement required inclusion and approval of a water management plan. That’s what the United States – the federal team – required that a management plan to be put in place because the basins that you saw earlier were drafted.”
“What that means,” continued Mortazavi “is that [the water] is put in these basins through rainfall, the San Jacinto river flow or the water that comes through the mountains into those basins. The amount of water that is available for safe yield was less than the amount of water that was produced in these basins. Therefore, there was a shortfall – a gap – and that was the overdraft.”
The two water districts came back and consulted all of the stakeholders, including the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto and they basically asked how they could put the management plan in place. All the parties concluded that the best way of doing that would be through a court judgement – the stipulated judgement – and the watermaster.
“The parties felt that the management of these basins should be done through an unbiased third party and the stakeholders should be the lead in that process,” stated Mortazavi.
Balancing the basins
How does the Watermaster Board relate to the Soboba Settlement?
According to Mortazavi’s presentation, the Soboba settlement required inclusion and approval of a WMP by the Tribe and the federal government. Essentially, the board oversees the management of four groundwater basins, and each one has different state regulation requirements. Lake Hemet, Eastern Municipal Water District, the city of Hemet and city of San Jacinto are the four entities.
“The WMP was developed by receiving feedback from all stakeholders and concluded the need for a court judgement and a watermaster.”
WMP sets the management requirements for the “physical solution” defined by the stipulated judgement. The physical solution comprises the details of the WMP and how that plan is complied with, according to Mortazavi.
The public agencies participating in the watermaster can purchase 7,500 acre-feet of water at a discounted rate through MWD under the Soboba settlement.
“MWD is the main purveyor of imported water into Southern California and that water can be purchased at a discount,” explained Mortazavi. “Out of that 7,500 acre-feet, the city of Hemet gets about 1,500 acre-feet.”
One acre-foot of water is approximately what a household will use in one year, according to the presentation.
The goal is to balance the basin. The mission and objective of the board is to “oversee the implement of the physical solution to achieve the optimum, reasonable, beneficial use of the waters for the management area.”
The governing board is comprised bu Hemet Mayor Linda Krupa (chairperson), San Jacinto Councilman Andrew Kotyuk (board member), EMWD Phil Paule (secretary/treasurer), Lake Hemet Municipal Water District representative Rick Hoffman (vice chair), and private producers representative Bruce Scott (board member). Hemet Councilman Russ Brown, who was appointed to take K. Paul Raver’s place after he resigned from the Council in December, is the new Watermaster representative for the city of Hemet.
Under the rules and regulations of the Watermaster board, “Each member of the Watermaster shall serve until replaced by the public agency or private pumpers that made the original appointment.”
With regards to compensation, the rules and regulations state that, “the appointing entity shall be responsible for payment of compensation, if any, of its representative on the Watermaster Board.”
How the board spends the money
How is the money obtained by the watermaster board spent? According to the proposed budget adopted Nov. 28 2016, the larger board expenses go to advisor services at $165,000, in-lieu program agreement at $189,000, and groundwater monitoring program at $156,220. The projected 2017 updated expenditures total $720, 970. According to Mortazavi, there is a lot of booking that has to happen to track the water.
The watermaster measures about 190 wells in the spring and in the fall, according to Mortazavi. 120 wells are sampled for water quality, which costs about $300 per well.
Most of the wells are private and the watermaster will pay for metering and staffing if given access, said Mortazavi. The watermaster also monitors supply and demand.
“By 2019, the watermaster board will have eliminated the overdraft and will have brought everything into balance, stated Mortazavi. The overdraft is about 10,000 acre-feet.
There is a shortfall and the board will use reserve funds to cover and balance the budget. Mortazavi stated that the assessment may need to be increased.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful asked how development impacts the overdraft and bringing it back into balance.
Handling future demands
“The judgment recognizes there is going to be future demand and recognizes that to be 15,000 acre-feet of additional water,” began Mortazavi. The entities that are involved are looking at new projects and new ways of bringing more imported water in or they are looking at increasing use of recycled water.”
One of the agreements paid for by the watermaster – as part of the budget – is to offset two major farming activities and eliminate their groundwater production and provide them recycled water. According to Mortazavi, that is part of the 15,000 acre-feet.
During the presentation, Mortazavi stated that EMWD is looking at a $22 million project to initiate and recharge, which would require recharging the basin and then pumping the water out. EMWD is looking at that to meet their future growth, which includes the city of Hemet because that is where some of the growth will occur.
The board meets every fourth Monday of February, May, August and November at 4 p.m. in the EMWD Headquarters located at 2270 Trumble Road, Perris.