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Part three: Interview with CSD Manager Jeff Briltz on Templeton drought 

-Special from the Soaring Eagle Press-

Part III – Templeton and the drought. An in depth interview with Templeton CSD General Manager Jeff Briltz

Note: In Part I, Biltz discussed how the drought has impacted Templeton, where the town’s water comes from and commented on the state water conservation mandate – and why Templeton is in a different category than most of the communities affected. In Part II, Briltz shared how well Templeton did in water conservation last year, how much water the community will be required to save this year, and outlined a number of ways to conserve outdoor water use. Now, in Part III, Briltz addresses indoor water conservation and how TCSD is working to sustain Templeton’s water resources.

Jeff Briltz.

Jeff Briltz.

Soaring Eagle Press (SEP) – We’ve talked about outdoor water conservation – what about inside the home?

Jeff Briltz – In Templeton, many homes are already newer and have toilets that use 1 ½ gallons or less per flush – some even use less than a gallon of water. These homes have low flow shower heads as well. Many of the older homes that have been around for a long time have already been retrofitted through programs that were popular here about 20 years ago.

There may still be opportunities – you many have a leak in your toilet and not even realize it. If you think you’re using more water than you expect – find out – we can provide you with toilet leak detection – it’s really quite simple to use. Or you can drop a couple of drops of food coloring into your toilet tank and if the food coloring enters your bowl, then you have a slow leak – even though you might not hear it.

Improve your habits – something like – if you brush your teeth before you hop into the shower, use warm water to brush your teeth. It will be cold to start, but allows the warm water to get closer to the shower so that when you turn on your shower, you’re waiting less time for the water to heat up – less water is running down the drain.

Some people have gone further and are capturing that water in a bucket and using that water for any indoor or outdoor plants – even using it to fill their toilet. You can be quite a water miser with relatively simple life style changes and really cut your impact.

But we don’t think that everybody needs to go to really extreme measures – like only showing once a week – to achieve the 25 percent reduction. But we are all going to need to do our part – again – we’re looking at increasing our conservation measures significantly in order to achieve that 25 percent (emphasis added by SEP).

SEP – Droughts come and go in California, but the need for water stays. We’ve already shown that Templeton has a rather wide-ranging water portfolio in order to achieve a sustainable supply of water to serve those living and working within TCSD’s boundaries. But the district is doing some additional things that people may not be aware of. One of them is laying the groundwork to bring Templeton’s eastside wastewater flows back to Templeton’s Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant from Paso Robles. This project would provide an additional 250 acre-feet of water that amounts to approximately 15 percent of the district’s annual production. Would you share a little more about this project and other things that the District is doing to secure a sustainable water supply for the town of Templeton?

Briltz – The project you mentioned is one of the projects that is actually in the district’s Master Plan. It’s not an imminent project, but the plans are under way – and it is part of the district’s long term plans to increase its supply.

We’re also pursuing some additional Lake Nacimiento water through the Nacimiento Pipeline Water Project to increase the amount of water we receive under that program to further enhance our supply – and we’re evaluating additional groundwater supplies that might be of interest to the district. We need to evaluate ALL of the various options.

Those are the three most likely – most available options. As you know, there is no new water – it’s how you utilize it and where it gets utilized. So, the East Side Force Main Project – that’s the project that you mentioned that would bring the water back from Paso Robles – would be a very reliable supply in many ways. Maybe more reliable than other water supplies because we’re already in the wastewater business and it’s under our control. It’s considered a very reliable project and that’s why it’s attractive – it makes use of an existing resource.

SEP – As an aside to that – in the news right now, you hear all about how one of the big things that municipalities really need to do is recycle their water. This essentially means run it through a treatment plant and reprocess it until it is potable (drinkable) water and then deliver it. But Templeton has been doing that with all the wastewater that currently goes to Meadowbrook for over a decade now – most people just aren’t aware of it. Would you like to address that for our readers?

Above: The Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant (lower left hand corner) treats effluent collected from the West side of Templeton. Once the wastewater has finished treatment, it is pumped under the freeway to the district’s percolation ponds (lower right hand corner) where the water filters down through the sands and gravels of the Salinas River and joins the underflows. Photo © Google Earth.

Above: The Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant (lower left hand corner) treats effluent collected from the West side of Templeton. Once the wastewater has finished treatment, it is pumped under the freeway to the district’s percolation ponds (lower right hand corner) where the water filters down through the sands and gravels of the Salinas River and joins the underflows. Photo © Google Earth.

Briltz – Certainly – One of our supplies is retrieval of our treated wastewater. Again, it’s not a direct water recycling or use. The treated wastewater is discharged into the district’s percolation ponds that are adjacent to the Salinas River. In round numbers, about 150 acre-feet of treated water per year is discharged into those ponds. The water percolates down into the underflow of the river and becomes groundwater. Then a couple of miles downstream, we are able to retrieve the water. Because we’ve added that water to the underflow of the river, we’re able to retrieve a like amount to both improve and increase the district’s water supply. So that water is being put back to a very beneficial use – potable drinking water.

SEP – Would you please explain how the water goes from “blue pipe” water (wastewater that has gone through the treatment process and can be used for irrigation) to potable water (water that is drinkable and usable throughout the household) – by traveling through the underflows of the Salinas River?

Briltz – As we know, nature provides this great treatment technique – much of our region is largely dependent on groundwater already – and that water arrives in groundwater basins through surface channels and other means – through years of percolation through the different soil types – and becomes treated by nature – filtered by nature. And when it’s pumped up out of the ground, generally requires very little treatment.

Much of Templeton’s water – in fact all the water we deliver – is well water that has been treated in just the fashion I described.

The district’s wastewater retrieval program works very similarly – after it’s fully treated at the wastewater treatment plant, it’s percolated into the ground. Then during this distance it travels between the percolation ponds and the well – all underground for a couple of miles – it’s filtered by nature – by the sands, gravels and soils that are underneath the surface of the river. And by the time we retrieve the water, it is considered groundwater and is perfectly safe to drink.

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