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Sewer district's new chief eyes drought-proofing region

Dan McIntyre balancing water supply challenges, big dreams for district

When Dan McIntyre considers Dublin San Ramon Services District's (DSRSD) future, he dreams big.

The newly appointed general manager of DSRSD has his sights on better preparing the district to avoid a water shortage if the California drought continues. But he's also hoping to work toward ambitious goals that could make the district zero-waste.

McIntyre, who joined DSRSD a year ago as the engineering services manager, said the district is continuing to swap out drinking water with recycled wastewater for landscape irrigation, is searching for additional water sources to bring in and is researching new methods of treating water.

"One thing is to think long-term about water supply and diversifying our water supply," McIntyre, 51, said during an interview after his promotion last week. "As much as it's rained in the past year and snowed in the mountains, it's still an average year. ... At least some of the pressure we've dealt with the past two years isn't as severe."

DSRSD has been pushing water conservation hard in Dublin and San Ramon, where it provides drinking water the district also provides sewer services on contract to Pleasanton.

In addition, the district launched a residential recycled water fill station two years ago where residents could take free recycled water home to water their landscaping. The program recently announced its fill station on Johnson Drive will be open an additional day in anticipation of warmer months -- residents can pump water Wednesday, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The district also wrapped up a $5.1 million purple pipe construction project last month to bring recycled water to West Dublin.

"Because DSRSD has invested in recycled water for more than 20 years, almost 30% of our water supply is now locally controlled and drought-resistant. The entire community benefits from a more diverse and reliable water supply that is less dependent on Delta water," DSRSD board president D.L. (Pat) Howard said in a statement.

McIntyre agreed, saying the treated wastewater is now used instead of drinking water to keep the grass healthy. While recycled water can damage certain plants and trees after long periods of use, he said, grass loves it.

"Those parks are essentially drought-proof," he said.

Part of McIntyre's mission to protect the district's water supply is to look into other sources, such as buying water from another area and pumping it in via a bypass from another agency, but he said that idea and others have a ways to go.

The agency is also considering tackling more involved methods such as researching the possibility of building a collaborative desalination plant in the Delta and working with other Tri-Valley water agencies and cities to purify wastewater and deposit it into Lake Del Valle or the underground aquifer for later use as drinking water.

Those efforts each contain their own challenges, he said, and the district has other difficulties that he'll be dealing with.

Since DSRSD was founded 63 years ago, the distribution pipes that were put in en mass when the district started operations will need to be replaced in the coming years. He said the district will have to figure out a way to pay for those and will continue to evaluate and repair old pipes in the meantime to extend their use.

Another challenge the district faces comes from the march of time. The district hired a large swath of workers in the 1990s and 2000s, and now that workforce is getting ready to retire.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, you had all these new people brought in, and you can see a bow wave of retirements," he said.

Despite the challenges, McIntyre said he's excited to think about what the district could accomplish. Down the line, he hopes to bring the district to a point where everything that flows through its system is recycled and repurposed -- even waste, possibly as a power source.

"What we'd actually like to do is get to the point that we recycle in one way or another all of our water," he said. "We're close to doing that in the summer months, but we'd like to do it year-round and not to have to pump any of our treated effluent over the hill to the Bay."

Before joining DSRSD, he worked as Livermore's public works director for 12 years and worked in the engineering division for 12 years prior to that promotion.

His appointment as DSRSD general manager was finalized last week, with the district's board member Georgean Vonheeder-Leopold noting in a statement that McIntyre "understands Valley politics and I look forward to working with him."

He succeeds former general manager Bert Michalczyk, who retired in November.

A Tri-Valley resident for 26 years, McIntyre grew up in Merced and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He later earned a master's degree in public administration from Cal State East Bay.

His salary is just over $244,000, according to DSRSD.

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