Salinas Valley Worried about Desal Plans
California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where up to 60 percent of the vegetables and leafy greens are grown for the nation.
The water company, which serves about 100,000 people on the Monterey Peninsula, was ordered 20 years ago to reduce using their source of water from the Carmel River by 60 percent by 2016.
Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, commented, “They’re searching frantically to find an alternative source. Unfortunately, they have had twenty years to do that and the voters haven’t really been necessarily sympathetic and voted for their particular projects when proposed.”
“So, now we are to the point of looking at a desalination plant that is supposedly going to replace all that water from the Carmel River,” Groot said. “There are a number of issues there as well—not only the cost—but the energy footprint and a number of other things that really have some of the people here quite concerned right now.”
“The test well for the proposed desal plant may be fairy close to the shoreline,” Groot said, “but any water taken from that well could impact the Salinas Valley. I think our biggest concern is what is that cone of depression, which is a scientific term for the influence that a source water intake has in a particular area. And because of the confluence between the lower aquifer, the Salinas Valley Basin, and the shallow aquifer from which they propose to take the water, we really don’t know how large a cone of influence is going to be felt. And since the actual aquifer goes offshore quite a distance, there is potential for some sort of impact there.”
“We’ve been involved in the whole CPUC process for the Public Utilities Commission trying to insert our particular viewpoints into the process” Groot explained, “so that everyone is fully aware of the ramifications of placing the source water intakes over the aquifer. And what if pumping is determined to cause harm to source water that includes Salinas Valley, either brackish or fresh water?”