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Commentary: Another way to look at the water crisis

By now, you’ve heard about the water crisis throughout California. For many reasons, our water supply is simply too low.

In Orange County, we have a reservoir that we pump most of our water from, but we are only allowed to pull 72% from O.C.'s reservoir, meaning we still need to import 28% of it from northern water supplies — the same supplies that feed the rest of the state.

Water is bought in sold by the acre/foot, and naturally, different supplies cost different amounts of money. What the heck is an acre/foot, you ask? It is a unit of volume equivalent to an acre of land filled 1 foot high with water (or picture a football field filled with 9 inches of water). In other words, it is a little over 325,000 gallons — about the same amount that a family of four uses per year.

Now, get ready for some math. Our local water supply is fairly cheap, coming in at about $300 per acre/foot, but when we import water, it gets much more expensive, and costs close to $1,100 per acre/foot. With 72% coming in at $300 and 28% coming in at $1,100, that means that our blended water bill comes in at $308 for imported water, and $216 for local water, for a combined total of about $524 per acre/foot. That last 28%, at $1,100, almost doubles the cost of our water.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if the O.C. reservoir had enough water to get 100% at just $300 per acre/foot? Well, hold on to your seat, because while O.C. doesn’t have a reservoir that large, Newport-Mesa does!

Underneath our feet, from about 800 feet to 2,200 feet down, lies a massive quantity of amber-tinted water. The tint comes from the colorings of an ancient redwood forest and aside from the coloring, the amber water is clean enough to drink straight from the ground.

How would we obtain this water? Well, Mesa Water has already solved that problem for its own city by building something called the Mesa Water Reliability Facility, and is now completely self-sufficient when it comes to water.

Its pipes run adjacent to Newport Beach’s water supply, and we can simply turn on the connections and tap into that supply.

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The question is: Would they let us?

The answer: Heck, yeah.

I’ve been working with representatives from Mesa Water on this idea for years now, and they would be overjoyed to service the city of Newport Beach. For MesaWater, this means saving tons of money in fixed overhead costs by producing higher water quantities. For us, it means we cut our water prices.

In addition to a cheaper, cleaner and totally sustainable water supply, it also removes Newport from reliance on statewide water, allowing other cities and farmers to use that water instead. It is high time we begin taking this option seriously.

MICHAEL GLENN lives in Newport Beach.


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