Orange County Branch Newsletter
Sudamericana Water Conservation
By Remi Candaele, PE | ASCE OC Branch President
Sudamericana Water Conservation
Last month, I traveled to Chile for my brother’s wedding and took the opportunity to wander in Patagonia, the Colchagua Valley (wine country), Santiago, and a few other places. I don’t know if the pattern is common across my peers, but as for myself, travels are generally punctuated by a constant evaluation of the local infrastructure, design details, construction means and methods, and an assessment of the infrastructure challenges that each region faces.
Mirador de las Torres Del Paine
Maipo River near Santiago
Chile’s challenges with water conservation and management caught my attention, as several parallels can be drawn with Southern California. In short, Chile has been facing its twelfth consecutive year of mega-drought. At this rate, the supply of fresh drinking water is predicted to decrease by 40% by 2070 in metropolitan areas. Water storage is rather challenged as glaciers of the Andes are receding rapidly, further reducing the recharge of rivers and aquifers.
Chile’s economy relies primarily on the worldwide export of agricultural produces, wine, and heavy metals. Experts estimate that the water demands from the private industries exceed that provided to the citizens (ratio of 1.4). Because the water-allocation system has been privatized in the 1980s, water scarcity has become detrimental to the low-income population.
A combination of potential solutions is being evaluated and implemented by the Chilean government including water reservoirs, desalination plants, irrigation canals from the Andes, rain and fog harvesting and use, planting native trees, and renationalization of water resources. Each solution comes with an array of limitations. As a stormwater expert for Q3 Consulting, I have come to recognize that the solutions of today become the problems of tomorrow.
Back in Orange County, California, the region has faced its driest months of January and February ever recorded and is on track to undergo a third consecutive year of severe drought. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated the 2021-22 wet-weather season with a zero percent initial allocation of State Water Project water and has since revised it to 15 percent of the normal annual delivery to water agencies, including to the Orange County Water District (OCWD). At this rate, OCWD estimates that the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) and the groundwater basin can provide water for two consecutive years at current pumping levels.
One limitation from injecting purified water to the groundwater basin has been the accumulation of PFAS (Perfluorinated alkyl substances). Think “solutions of today become the problems of tomorrow.” Upon several years of pilot testing in collaboration with OCWD, the Yorba Linda Water District has completed the construction of the Ion Exchange PFAS Water Treatment Plant that will help remedy the accumulation of PFAS in our local aquifers. The distinguished project will be recognized at our 2022 Annual Awards Dinner.
Since we are on the topic of water resources, our local Environmental and Water Resources Institute Chapter was just selected as the EWRI Chapter of the Year by Society. Please help me congratulate Jenny Robinet and the leadership of the Chapter for the outstanding recognition.
I could not wrap these notes without recognizing two prominent civil engineers of our local Orange County community. John Hogan, P.E., and Ken Rosenfield, P.E. are both retiring from their current work functions at David Evans and Associates and at the City of Laguna Hills, respectively. John and Ken have largely contributed to the development of what is today’s Orange County Branch. Congratulations to you both!
That’s a wrap. ‘Til next time, take care of yourselves, and please reach out with any questions or suggestions.
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