Do you know where your EID water comes from?
The District relies on surface water to meet its entire drinking water demand. The three principal diversion points for delivering water into the main system are: the District owned and operated Sly Park Dam and Jenkinson Lake; the El Dorado Hydroelectric FERC Project 184 and Forebay Reservoir; as well as Folsom Reservoir via a United States Bureau of Reclamation Water Service Contract, a Warren Act Contract, and state water right permit. The water supply from Project 184, most of which is stored in four upper lakes, is diverted at Kyburz off the South Fork American River where it then travels 22 miles through the El Dorado Canal before it reaches Forebay Reservoir.
The district water conveyance system is a combination of pipelines, storage tanks to meet daily needs, and a few Gold Rush-era ditches. The piped drinking water system consists of 1,295 miles of pipe ranging in size from 2 to 48 inches, 5 water treatment plants, 34 storage tanks, 200 pressure reducing stations and 38 pumping stations ranging from 500 to 4,000 feet in elevation. For the main system, water is treated at the Reservoir A and Reservoir 1 water treatment plants (both located in the Pollock Pines area) and the El Dorado Hills water treatment plant.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, all surface water treatment requires approved multi-barrier (filtration and disinfection) processes to ensure that the water delivered to our customers’ homes and businesses is safe and reliable. All of EID’s water treatment plants are operated by California Department of Public Health certified staff and meet or exceed the stringent performance requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
I understand that the district has the ability to move water to and from certain areas of our water system as needed (especially during maintenance periods). Can you tell me how this works?
Because our water supplies originate from three different locations and our transmission pipelines are intertied, water treated at Reservoir A and Reservoir 1 can be fed all the way to El Dorado Hills by gravity.
Having this flexibility to move water allows us to shut down the El Dorado Canal during the last few months of each year to perform system maintenance along the canal and at Reservoir 1 and provide gravity water to El Dorado Hills for plant maintenance during this period as well.
What are your greatest challenges in making this complex system work?
The district’s main service area consists of some 220 square miles. Compounding the challenge of operating over a vast area is the diverse topography of the service area and the climate variability of winter snowfall in the east and hot summers in the west. These components require an extensive and complex infrastructure to control the delivery of water at acceptable pressures and flows that meet our customers’ demands. As the infrastructure ages, the amount of maintenance and repair to keep the system operating increases, stretching operation and maintenance resources thin. We are in the process of replacing the aged infrastructure with new and more reliable assets. Drinking water operations, maintenance, and engineering staff continue to work diligently to ensure EID customers receive excellent customer service despite the challenges. In fact, as compared to American Water Works Association standards, EID is in the top quartile in service reliability performance.
How do you plan for water use for the future?
In order to keep pace with increasing water demands, EID prepares master planning documents that look to the future growth in demand and the needed supplies and infrastructure to meet those demands. EID is nearly finished with the latest plan update, the Integrated Water Resources Master Plan, which lays out the plan for the near-term and to buildout of the District service area.
When the season gets off to a slow start in terms of precipitation, are you concerned about drought? What does the district do to prepare for a drought should there be one?
EID has a drought preparedness plan in place to respond to both near-term and long-term changing water supply conditions. Drought indicators and associated trigger levels function to declare a drought early enough to maximize saved water, but not so early that an unnecessary drought declaration is issued.
The plan looks at current storage in Jenkinson Lake, Echo Lake, Lake Aloha, Silver Lake, and Caples Lake, and worst-case expected supplies to assess current supply and water demands through the year to determine drought stage conditions.
You’ve mentioned that there is a pretty stringent educational and licensing requirement of those employees who work as water system operators. Can you tell me what is involved?
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires all employees who work as water treatment or distribution operators be certified. In California, the Department of Public Health is the certifying authority. Certification is issued in five levels. Level one is entry level and level five the most advanced, depending on the amount of education, specialized training and experience an applicant has as well as the size and complexity of the water system they work for. EID’s water system is rated at the highest level for complexity and population served and thus requires staff be certified at the highest levels.
In 2008, the district partnered with the Los Rios Community College District to develop a certification program for water and wastewater operations and maintenance training to prepare the next generation of EID certified staff. EID continues to support this program with three staff members currently teaching in the program.