Water softener ordinance part of a long-range plan to protect groundwater

Strategy is to reduce the amount of salts in wastewater

By Shawn Novack, Benito Link

The Hollister City Council took an important step last week to protect our local groundwater supplies and meet state wastewater regulations when it approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of certain water softeners that produce high-salt wastewater. The City Council’s ordinance prohibiting the installation of self-regenerating water softeners moves the city closer to accomplishing the long-range goals for improving water quality and reliability and ensuring the economic health and quality of life in the Hollister community.

It is important to point out that the ordinance does not prohibit the use of existing water softeners, but prohibits the installation of new self-generating water softeners.

Phasing out water softeners is part of the a long-range plan for the area’s water supply that started more than a decade ago when leaders in the Hollister Urban Area developed a Master Plan to provide a safe and reliable water supply for Hollister’s future. The development of the Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP), a cooperative effort between the City of Hollister, San Benito County Water District and the Sunnyslope County Water District, is based on the Master Plan and solidified the long-range water supply strategy for the community.

A key element of that long-range strategy is reducing the amount of salts in wastewater, which contribute to high salt levels in groundwater. By reducing the source salt discharges created by water softeners, wastewater discharges will be able meet state regulations and will in turn reduce salts in the local groundwater basin. Our groundwater basin is a precious natural resource that provides critical water supply during times of drought.

At the same time the city is working to reduce salt in wastewater, the HUAWP is working to improve drinking water quality by upgrading and building new surface water treatment facilities. Improving drinking water quality will further reduce the need for water softeners, and protect groundwater.

The Hollister City Council should be applauded for their leadership and foresight in protecting our groundwater resources and remaining true to the vision of a safe and reliable water supply for the Hollister urban area.  The HUAWP is committed to the long-range vision of providing high-quality water to help ensure economic stability and contribute to a better quality of life for the entire community.

If you want to find out more about the Hollister Urban Area Water Project, visit www.hollisterwaterproject.com.

Shawn Novack
Water Conservation Program Manager
Water Resources Association San Benito County

HUAWP to participate in drought workshop with focus on water conservation services

Press Release

A free drought workshop that focuses on “Ways We Can All Save Water” will be held Thursday, Aug. 28 at Paine’s Restaurant in Hollister. The workshop will provide an opportunity for agriculture, residents and businesses to learn about local programs and services to assist in using water efficiently.

The event is being sponsored by the Water Resources Association of San Benito County, the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau’s Green Business Committee, Farmhouse Communications, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Hollister.

The event will include a presentation by Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP) Project Manager Harry Blohm, who will discuss the project’s role in supporting the management of the quantity and quality of our water supplies, both the local and imported sources.

The free workshop includes a free breakfast and will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Paine’s Restaurant, 421 East Street, Hollister. To register for the workshop, call 831-637-4378 (seating is limited).

Guest View: Grand jury report highlights merits of water project

By Don Ridenhour, Hollister Free Lance, 8/8/14

The San Benito County Grand Jury has performed a tremendous service to county residents by highlighting the benefits of the Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP) in its 2013-2014 report. As the “Watchdogs of the Community,” the Grand Jury is a neutral, non-partisan group of citizens who are responsible for investigating public agencies and organizations and determine if they are operating in the best interests of San Benito County as a whole. We applaud the effort involved in producing the entire report and appreciate the time and energy it demands.

One of the subjects of this year’s Grand Jury report was the Sunnyslope County Water District (SSCWD), which is one of the members of the HUAWP, a partnership with the City of Hollister and the San Benito County Water District. The Grand Jury found that SSCWD’s improvements to the Ridgemark Wastewater Treatment Plant were in the best interests of the district’s ratepayers and was the most viable option.

As part of its investigation into SSCWD, the Grand Jury also found that the HUAWP is on track in its efforts to improve local water quality, ensure economic stability and contribute to a better quality of life for the entire community. The report states: “In reviewing HUAWP, it ensures access to high quality water, by adding more surface water to the mix, thus reinforcing the reliability and availability of water for the economic vitality of all residents. It does this while simultaneously making it possible to reduce the salt concentration in our ground water. This is a very important achievement if realized.”

That achievement is currently being realized. Improvements to the Lessalt Water Treatment Plant are on schedule to be completed in November, to be followed by construction of the West Hills Water Treatment Plant. Together, these projects will improve water quality for drinking water customers, protect the groundwater basin and help meet wastewater discharge requirements.

The Grand Jury did not overlook the issue of the costs and benefits of the project. The report notes that “The only real discussion is whether the benefits justify the costs. To be sure, only time will tell.” But its authors also acknowledge that “while other communities may have lower rates in the short term, the inevitable will happen. They too will need to increase their capacity or improve their water quality. This is an expensive and immutable reality.” On the whole, the Grand Jury’s findings concluded that “the merits of the HUAWP are substantial and, in the view of the Grand Jury, necessary.”

It is gratifying as water managers to have the support of the Grand Jury. We know that raising rates is never a popular notion, and we appreciate the economic challenges we all face. As public agencies, we strive to be fiscally responsible. But as the Grand Jury report points out, maintaining and protecting our water quality “is an expensive and immutable reality.” We remain committed to our mission to deliver high-quality water that will ensure our economic stability and contribute to a better quality of life for our entire community.

For more information about the HUAWP, visit www.hollisterwaterproject.com

Don Ridenhour is the General Manager of the Sunnyslope County Water District.

San Benito County Water District Receives Prop 84 Funding

Benito Link, 03/10/14

The San Benito County Water District (SBCWD) announced it has been successful in its efforts to secure $4.1 million in Proposition 84 funding. Proposition 84 authorized the State of California to sell $5.4 billion in general obligation bonds for water and flood control projects.

The funding will assist with the costs associated with the Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP). This project will provide better quality drinking water throughout the Hollister Urban Area and in turn, will produce a better quality wastewater that will help the City meet stringent wastewater discharge requirements, help protect our local groundwater basin and assist in producing a high-quality recycled water.

The SBCWD initially began work on an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) in 2004 with other partners that share their local watershed. An IRWMP is a collaborative effort to manage all aspects of water resources in a region. The IRWMP involves multiple agencies and stakeholders to address issues through mutually beneficial solutions.

Out of those initial meetings in 2004, the Pajaro River Watershed Integrated Regional Water Management Plan was developed. The Pajaro River Watershed Regional Water Management Group consists of:

  • San Benito County Water District (SBCWD)
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD)
  • Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA)

The HUAWP is one of the projects identified by the Group as benefitting the local and regional watershed and was included in the Proposition 84 application.

The Pajaro River Watershed is approximately 1,300 square miles and covers portions of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey Counties.

The Pajaro River’s largest tributary is the San Benito River which is much longer than the Pajaro, flowing northwest from its source at an elevation of 4760 feet on San Benito Mountain on its course between the Diablo Range and the Gabilan Range ultimately joining the Pajaro River. The Pajaro River eventually drains into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

For more information about the Hollister Urban Area Water Project visit: www.hollisterwaterproject.com or email: info@hollisterwaterproject.com

Contact: Harry Blohm or Jeff Cattaneo

(831) 637-8218

Award-Winning Hollister Urban Area Water Project Video

Benito Link, 1/28/14

Hollister, Calif. (January 28, 2014) – A video highlighting the need for improved water in the Hollister area has won a First Place award in the 2013 CreaTiVE Awards in the Bay Area Community Access TV – Professional category. The award was announced Jan. 18, 2014 during an awards ceremony at the California Theatre in San Jose.

The four-and-a-half minute video summarizes the decades-long water problems of the Hollister area and describes how the Hollister Urban Area Water Project (HUAWP) will address those water issues. It was produced in cooperation with the Community Media Access Partnership (cmaptv.org), a non-profit tax-exempt public, education and government access media center that serves Gilroy, Hollister and San Juan Bautista.

CMAP staff Emery Hudson and Joann Cyprys teamed with Shawn Novack of the Water Resources Association of San Benito County (WRASBC) to write and produce the video, which can be viewed on the HUAWP website: http://hollisterwaterproject.com/category/brief-videos

“We’re honored that the video was recognized, and we hope the award will bring additional attention to the Hollister Urban Area Water Project ,” said Novack, who is the Water Conservation Program Manager for the WRASBC. “Water is a precious resource, and we need to do everything we can to protect and conserve it in the Hollister area.”

The video features interviews with water managers and local individuals who explain the history of the region’s water supplies and the need for the HUAWP, which will improve drinking water quality and reliability for the Hollister urban area.

The CreaTiVE TV Awards are hosted by CreaTV, a San Jose non-profit media center that produces public and education television programs. Community video makers in the 9 Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz were honored in 10 categories.

For more information about the Hollister Urban Area Water Project, visit the website at www.hollisterwaterproject.com or you can call Shawn Novack or Harry Blohm at 831-637-8218, or email them at info@hollisterwaterproject.com.