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Ramona Water District Proposes Potential Poway Partnership

The project is years out, but General Manager David Barnum said it would benefit both Ramona and Poway.

Ramona Municipal Water District General Manager David Barnum said that while other districts boast money and resources, his district has ingenuity. The proof? The district's newest plan to partner with the City of Poway in an effort to reduce costs and add resources.

The concept was introduced to the water board at the December meeting on Tuesday, where Barnum gave a presentation on the proposed partnership.

"This is an item of vision," Barnum told the board. "If the vision is implemented, it will change how RMWD serves Ramona."

That vision includes three phases and the cooperation of the City of Poway.

Phase I

  • Create a second source of potable water to increase redundancy and reduce reliance on the San Diego County Water Authority

Barnum said that ideally, RMWD should have two sources of potable water. Currently, the district purchases treated, potable water from the San Diego County Water Authority, who purchases the water from Metropolitan Water District of So Cal, who buys it from the state.

RMWD also purchases untreated water from the County Water Authority to sell to customers to use for agriculture use, which is stored in Lake Ramona.

The City of Poway, by contrast, only buys untreated water from the County Water Authority, as they have their own treatment plant, thus reducing their costs for water supply, Barnum said.

  • Identify opportunities to potentially reduce the costs of water treatment

Currently, Ramona has no plant to treat water for potable use. Long ago, there was a plan to build a treatment plant at Lake Ramona, where untreated water bought from the SDCWA is stored. Barnum said it would cost an extravagant amount of money to build a treatment plant there.

RMWD's proposal is to send the untreated water stored in Lake Ramona to Poway's treatment plan and then buy the treated water at a cheaper price than the County Water Authority could provide.

"The more water you treat, the cheaper per unit it is," Barnum said, citing Poway's benefit in the deal.

The general manager said existing pipes the district has in place could hopefully carry water from Lake Ramona to Poway's plant.

"We hope it's just a matter of valving," he said.

  • Increase emergency water storage for the community of Ramona

Currently, Barnum said the district has the ability to store just 24 hours worth of emergency. With the proposed Poway Partnership Project, in the case of a power outage, water in Lake Ramona can be gravity fed down to the Poway Treatment Plant to make potable water. This would be dependent, Barnum said, on the plant's generator and the implementation of a natural gas line powering the Poway Pump Station.

  • Better utilization of Lake Ramona

In the partnership vision, both Poway and Ramona could use Lake Ramona to store untreated water, sharing the cost for storage. Additionally, Lake Ramona could be filled to capacity and eventually be used for recreational use, Barnum said in a press conference.

According to the general manager, Lake Ramona can store 12,000 acre feet of water. Cost to store water there is about $1,000 per acre foot.

Phase II

  • Indirect potable reuse for the community of Ramona

Currently, Ramona Municpal Water District has two treatment plants, the Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant and the San Vicente Wastewater Treatment Plant. Once water is treated there for recycled used, what's left is known as tertiary water.

The RMWD takes this water, which, Barnum said, is cleaner than the untreated water the district buys from the county, and sprays it into spray fields. Some of it is also sold to Mt. Woodson and San Vicente golf courses.

Barnum said that phase II of the vision could put this water, that's currently being essentially wasted, into better use. Barnum is suggesting that this tertiary water be mixed into the untreated Lake Ramona water, which would up the quality. When this water gets sent down to Lake Poway's treatment center, it wouldn't need to be treated as thoroughly as it would if there were no tertiary water in it.

Phase III

  • Identify opportunities to potentially reduce costs of pumping through generation of electricity

If Phase II and II are successfully implemented, Barnum said that water will constantly be running through the pipes from Lake Ramona to the Poway Treatment Plant, which run past the Poway Pump Station.

"Water would be flowing up and down the hill all the time," Barnum said. "Could that generate electricity? Yes, but is it economical?"

Barnum said that water flow could be another way to power the Poway Pump Station at a cheaper cost. The district is currently investigating an energy alternative for the pump station: a natural gas line owned by SDG&E that could power the pump during blackouts.

When Will This All Happen?

Barnum, District Superintendent John Brean and Engineer Mike Metts met with a director for the City of Poway to discuss the possible partnership.

They are optimistic about it," Barnum told the board of Poway.

The city will conduct studies in the coming year to decide if the partnership is possible, considering things like if their treatment plant has enough capacity to treat their water needs and some of Ramona's.

"In six to nine months, Poway will come to RMWD with information from the study," Barnum said.

The project's three phases has a completion date "years out," according to Barnum.

"This agency is not just about raising rates," Barnum said. "It's about thinking outside of the box."

Stay tuned with Patch in the coming months as this project unravels.

Jack Sampson December 17, 2012 at 09:36 PM
This is an excellent plan. I am very impressed. The plan would make Ramona a better place and I am happy someone is thinking about the future of this town. thank you.
JasoninRamona December 18, 2012 at 05:05 AM
I have to agree...if I understand the concept it will reduce the costs of water treatment by parterning with poway, increase emergency water storage by using lake ramona, reduce the costs of pumping through generation of electricity and utilize the same concept of indirect potable reuse that san diego is considering. From an engineering standpoint it makes sense. Go do it!
greg Chick December 18, 2012 at 11:42 PM
This seems like a good idea. The devil is in the details and I hope someone is watching from afar with out a conflict in interest. Spray field water is a waste. Los Vegas returns most of its waste water back to the source where it came for full credit. This water then comes to Ramona in a round about way... Generating power as water falls down to Poway is electricity that is used and sold differently than SDG&E electricity and also a good way to store power, If solar power in daytime pumps water to Ramona then let it fall and generate as it does is "Solar Banking" . I suggest they consider at a future point using Solar to do this.

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