The parched coastal community of Cambria has turned on its water supply’s backup plan.
The Cambria Community Services District (CSD) brought the Emergency Water Supply (EWS) Project online on Jan. 20, after months of wrangling permits, brisk construction, and wrapping up remediation measures and other finishing touches.
- PHOTO COURTSEY OF C.M. SMITH CONSTRUCTION
- GONE ONLINE: The Cambria Community Services District brought the recently completed Emergency Water Supply Project online Jan. 20. Construction on the plant—which will inject treated fresh water, brackish water, and treated wastewater into the community’s groundwater supply—began in August.
Construction began in August 2014 amid a severe drought and a difference of opinion in the community regarding how best to deal with the situation. Due to shallow coastal wells, Cambria had an already wavering water supply as California’s severely dry conditions worsened and exacerbated the situation.
After declaring a Level III Severity emergency, the Cambria CSD asked residents and businesses alike to tighten their belts and placed a 50-gallon per-person per-day limit on water use, mandating commercial uses to be reduced by 80 percent, and banning all outdoor use of potable water.
The new facility sits alongside San Simeon Creek north of town, and will treat a mixture of fresh water, brackish water high in salinity, and already treated wastewater. Once the mix is treated, that water will be injected into the wells that provide most of Cambria’s drinking water. Cambria CSD Public Information Officer Tom Gray told New Times that the facility’s construction cost slightly more than $9.5 million.
The plant is currently only permitted for emergency uses during severe drought conditions, but Gray said the CSD is seeking permits that will allow for more flexibility in its use. An Environmental Impact Report for those permits is currently being prepared, with completion expected sometime this spring.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay