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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Water, Water Everywhere - Commentary

Uploaded: May 15, 2009
The Dublin San Ramon Services District, which supplies water to Dublin and Dougherty Valley and sewer services to South San Ramon is working on $23.5M of infrastructure projects. A recent District Press Release describes projects underway this year.

"The projects touch all three components of the District's service portfolio—wastewater treatment, potable water distribution, and recycled water production and distribution—and extend in scope from a new, multi-million dollar anaerobic digester to refurbishing construction meters so contractors can use recycled water instead of drinking water."

The District has been very successful with its recycled water program and it looks like they are planning to increase it to more uses. "Construction and dust control are appropriate uses for recycled water, and the District has 10 recycled water hydrants available to contractors. To minimize the possibility of cross connections between the separate potable and recycled water distribution systems, the District installed unique nozzles on the purple meters and hydrants." Recycled water is also used for golf courses and road medians in San Ramon and Dougherty Valley.

Recycled water takes effluent, meaning wastewater that goes down the drain or your toilet. The wastewater is filtered and treated to extract the water part from the waste part. Then the water is put into purple pipes, so nobody mixes it up or with potable (drinking) water.

Engineers at DSRSD insist that recycled water is perfectly safe to drink, but when they suggested injecting it into the ground water eight years ago, voters were so put off by the prospect of "toilet to tap" that three of the board members, including the one lone representative from San Ramon, were voted out of office.

I too was against "toilet to tap," when I ran for the District as the "San Ramon candidate" in 2004. San Ramon voters didn't care that the other candidates and Directors were all from Dublin and the "San Ramon candidate" lost.

Two years later, in 2006, I was considering running again, but only if the incumbents didn't run. There was speculation that one or both of them would not run. Jeff Hansen had been a Director for 20 years and was considering retiring or running for the Dublin City Council. Tom Ford was having some health problems at that time. Both filed their paperwork at 3 pm on the last day for incumbents to file.

They had one challenger, Mohinder Khanna, and guess what, Khanna was the "San Ramon candidate," having moved to Dougherty Valley two years earlier. Khanna had 35 years of experience in wastewater management and an impressive list of degrees. He should have been a shoe-in, but once again voters in San Ramon voted for Dubliners and not the "San Ramon candidate."

I chose not to run in 2008 and neither did anyone else except the incumbents, so there wasn't an election. I don't have a problem with the guys (and yes they are all guys now) on the DSRSD Board of Directors, but I still believe there should be at least one person from San Ramon.

I got involved in politics, to the extent that being the San Ramon Observer is involved, because of the Dougherty Valley sewer which was put into my neighborhood by the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District even though my house is not in their District. So my street has a 24" main sewer line from Dougherty Valley going to a 20 Million Gallon per Day pumping station that has spilled raw sewage into the street at least twice since I've been living here.

Two years ago I asked the San Ramon City Council and DSRSD to redistrict Central San's part of San Ramon from Estero Drive to Norris Canyon, so that the pumping station on my block could be deactivated. Since the effluent from Norris Canyon naturally flows south to Dublin the pumping stations would no longer be necessary.

The District rejected this proposal as being too expensive and impractical, but if they want to keep recycling water they will need more effluent to recycle. Why? Because everyone is being told to conserve water, so less is being flushed down the drain. We've gone from 3.5 gallon toilets to 1.6, and now there are the new pressurized toilets that flush with less than one gallon.

California is changing its gray water laws too, so soon more people will be recycling their own water. I firmly believe in individual recycling, and rainwater harvesting (a subject I shall get into in another column), but as the amount of wasted water is reduced, wastewater going down to Dublin to be recycled will be reduced too. So the effluent from the rest of San Ramon will be necessary to increase, or even maintain, the amount of recycled water DSRSD can provide.

I'm smart enough to know not to push this issue until it pushes itself, so I'm just going to promote home recycling and rainwater catchment for homes, HOAs, businesses, and public agencies. I believe the climate is changing and water will become scarcer. Water agencies like East Bay MUD and DSRSD need to start supporting, teaching, and encouraging rainwater harvesting and gray water recycling.

I saw Mr. Khanna in the Nob Hill Market a couple of weeks ago and asked if he would run again in 2010, and he asked me if I would run again. Hey, maybe we should run as the "San Ramon slate." Come on San Ramon, it is time to put someone from San Ramon back on the Dublin SAN RAMON Services District Board of Directors again.

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