Mesa Water Promotes its Board's Commitment to Local Water

Mesa Water’s General Manager, Paul E. Shoenberger, P.E., Discusses District’s Successes With A Local Blogger

Costa Mesa, Calif.; February 6, 2012Mesa Water District (Mesa Water) is on track to achieve its Board of Directors’ long-standing vision of becoming self-reliant. Later this year -- due to the Board’s direction and decades of forward planning, well-managed local groundwater sources, recycled water, conservation (also known as water use efficiency), and smart infrastructure investments -- the District will be able to entirely supply local water demand with local water.

When construction is complete on its improved Colored Water Treatment Facility, Mesa Water will be able to meet 100 percent of its customers’ water needs without depending on less reliable and more expensive imported water transported from Northern California or the Colorado River. This rare accomplishment means that Mesa Water customers will no longer be at the mercy of drought or the regulatory and environmental challenges that jeopardize affordable and reliable water deliveries from these distant supply sources. It also means that Mesa Water will gain more local control over its water provision costs, as well as more local control over the quality of the water it provides.

Mesa Water General Manager Paul E. Shoenberger, P.E. recently sat down with the Huntington Beach-based blog, Surf City Voice, to discuss the District’s commitment to local water supply reliability, including water conservation, water recycling, groundwater treatment, and the exploration of new water sources such as ocean desalination. Following are some highlights of that conversation.

Shoenberger on Mesa Water’s commitment to local water supply reliability:

  • “Through our efforts with the groundwater treatment project, at this time next year, for the first time, we will not need to import water going forward. That has been a goal of the Board since the 80s. We have been putting in more groundwater wells, conservation, recycled water. We have been pushing towards that, so this is really the culmination of a long-term goal by our Board to become what we call local and reliable.”
  • “We are spending $20 million on our groundwater treatment project. Every year, about $1.6 million [comes] out of our budget for conservation and we reduced the cost for our recycled water [to encourage its use]. If you really look where we are putting our money, and putting our time and effort, it is in the supplies we’re developing that are making us very unique in Orange County, in the sense [that] we are going to not be importing water. And that local, reliable [water-supply] mix is very low-energy intensive, as compared to other [agencies] that import water. We are very proud of what we are doing here.”

Shoenberger on ocean desalination:

  • “I think it [our goal] is to be local and reliable. That is really where we put our time and our money, primarily in groundwater treatment, recycling, and conservation. We also have an interest in not only Mesa Water, but the whole water community, becoming more reliable. If desalination fits and helps our neighbors become more reliable that is better for us, because we are all interconnected. If we have a neighbor that has a water emergency, we’re going to help them out. So, the more reliable the area is, the more reliable Mesa Water is.”
  • “Desalination is one of those supplies that is local and reliable, and I think desalination will be a part the mixture in the long term. I don’t think it is the solution to all our water issues, but it is a part of the answer. Short term, I think it is still up in the air as to when the first project is going to go online.”

Shoenberger on Mesa Water’s investment in CalDesal, a new statewide voice for public water agencies in support of desalination:

  • “Our Board at Mesa Water supports the development of local and reliable sources of water, because that is part of Mesa Water’s mission. And so, we have been very active in recycled water, conservation, and groundwater treatment. The Board asked me to help start up CalDesal…because there was a perceived need for the organization. It was a Board directive in a public meeting that they would allow me to spend some time on starting up CalDesal.”
  • “The mission of CalDesal is to promote a local reliable water supply. It is to promote environmentally acceptable desalination where appropriate. And so, the mission of CalDesal is similar to many other nonprofits that the water community is involved in.”
  • “We [Mesa Water] do have an interest [in CalDesal’s mission], and the amount of time and effort that I have spent [on CalDesal] is pretty minor, especially compared to the other activities that I do as general manager. But like I said, our Board is for local, reliable water. There was a need [for CalDesal]. That is what the water community does. We work together and try to solve issues.”

Shoenberger on the proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant and possible adjoining pipeline through Mesa Water’s service area to a major water main serving much of Orange County:

  • “Our Board has taken no position on the pipeline and they will take no position until [it goes] through a full vetting in public. Those who support it and those who have concerns will have plenty of opportunity to have their voices heard. Only after that kind of process will our Board make a decision, and their decision will be based on what they feel is best for our customers.”

Shoenberger on public agency transparency:

  • “Mesa Water has a practice of being open and transparent. We respond to public records requests and we have a whole transparency section on our website, including our salaries, benefits and open public meetings.”

About Mesa Water

Founded on January 1, 1960, and governed by a publicly-elected, five-member Board of Directors, Mesa Water is an independent special district that provides water service to 110,000 residents in an 18-square-mile service area that includes most of Costa Mesa, a portion of Newport Beach, and John Wayne Airport. Mesa Water provides 100 percent local reliable groundwater to its customers due to the Mesa Water Reliability Facility. Visit, follow @MesaWater on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, email, or call 949.631.1200 to learn more.