July 29 – Coastkeeper Argues that San Diego County Water Authority’s Water Supply Plan Fails to Address Environmental Impacts

Today’s oral arguments are the first in organization’s 2014 lawsuit filed against the water supplier

SAN DIEGO, July 29, 2015 – Today in the Superior Court of the State of California, San Diego Coastkeeper provided oral arguments for its lawsuit filed against the San Diego County Water Authority on March 27, 2014. Coastkeeper says the Water Authority failed to account for the environmental impacts of existing and future water supply sources in its most recent water supply plan. Coastkeeper’s legal action calls on the Water Authority to follow state law by recognizing and accounting for the energy it uses to move and treat the region’s water.

“The Water Authority has relied heavily on its ‘Supply from the West’ approach to the region’s water supply, claiming that seawater desalination is ‘reliable, high quality and enhances water supply safety.’ It also acknowledges that desalination is ‘energy-intensive,’ recognizing energy demands more than 10 times its current energy usage. Yet when pressed to acknowledge the extensive greenhouse gas emissions associated with such an energy-intensive approach, the Water Authority melts away,” said Everett DeLano, an Escondido-based land use and environmental attorney. “The California Environmental Quality Act requires the Water Authority to address those impacts, even where it does not own the desalination facility itself, in order to ensure there is a fair and accurate accounting of the impacts of its decisions.”

Coastkeeper filed suit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that requires the agency to identify and address environmental impacts of its actions. The lawsuit holds the Water Authority accountable for failing to meet legal requirements addressing the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its water supply plan.

The water supply plan, officially called the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, explores the region’s needs for and options to address water supply, and sets precedent for related decisions through 2035. On March 27, the Water Authority approved this plan and its accompanying Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report and Climate Action Plan. Coastkeeper had been part of the planning process since early 2013 and repeatedly called on the Water Authority to prioritize and incentivize conservation—our region’s most readily available and cost-effective source of new water—and recycling and to implement an appropriate greenhouse gas reduction plan. The Water Authority declined to incorporate this public feedback.

“Particularly in light growing concern and planning related to our drought-stricken region, we need to pay close attention to our water supply’s energy use because it produces greenhouse gas emissions, a primary driver of global climate change,” said Matt O’Malley, San Diego Coastkeeper’s Waterkeeper. “Water supply decisions that we make today can greatly affect the health and economic success of San Diego County in the future because these decisions can contribute to climate change impacts like sea level rise and drought.”

No ruling was issued today, and Coastkeeper anticipates the next steps in San Diego Coastkeeper vs. San Diego County Water Authority will be a written ruling.

For more information on San Diego Coastkeeper, please visit localhost/sdcoastkeeper.

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SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. Visit us online at http://localhost/sdcoastkeeper.