Tri-Valley residents who have participated in a program that has given away millions of gallons of recycled water will find themselves out of luck in 2017.
Wednesday will be the final day for awhile that Dublin San Ramon Services District's residential recycled water fill station in Pleasanton will be in operation, barring inclement weather that would close it sooner.
DSRSD's board reached a consensus at its meeting Tuesday night to close the fill station during the 18 months its recycled water treatment plant is under construction.
Extensive concrete work will begin near the treatment plant gate in January, kicking off an $18.2 million expansion project that will enable the plant to produce 70% more recycled water to meet peak summer demand. DSRSD has indicated that it will limit construction that reduces the plant's production capacity to times when demand for irrigation water is low, and notify large customers of unavoidable interruptions.
But with construction in January occurring in the same area residents use to enter and leave the fill station, the board felt it had to shut down the facility for now.
"We cannot put the public at risk in a hard-hat construction zone or cause a traffic jam on Johnson Drive when roads are closed inside the treatment plant," incoming DSRSD board president Richard Halket said in a statement.
He added that the board agreed to revisit its decision if there is little to no rain over the next two months, increasing the likelihood of irrigation restrictions this summer.
"We haven't had mandatory irrigation restrictions in the Tri-Valley since last June, when our water supply improved and we could move to voluntary conservation measures," Halket said. "If we have to reinstate irrigation restrictions, we will look at options for operating a recycled water fill station for residents."
Otherwise, the board will consider the fill station program's long-term future in spring 2018, when plant construction is currently slated to be winding down, according to DSRSD spokeswoman Renee Olsen.
DSRSD initiated the residential recycled water fill station program with the opening of the Pleasanton facility in June 2014. The agency also opened one in Dublin the following summer as another free-of-charge source for landscaping water for Tri-Valley residents.
The Dublin facility was open only in the summer, with 2016 being its last as DSRSD permanently closed that fill station at the end of September. DSRSD officials said lessened water restrictions and cooling temperatures factored into that decision, along with cost and loss of its fill station site due to construction.
Olsen said safety was the reason the Pleasanton closure proposal came before the board.
"It was not practical or safe to allow the fill station operation to continue as it has in the past with construction taking place," she said.
Decreasing demand also factored into the board's decision not to operate a residential fill station in 2017.
While the program has 3,900 registered users and has given away 44.7 million gallons of recycled water to date, demand for the service has dropped, according to DSRSD staff. At the height of the drought in 2015, the amount of recycled water consumed in the residential fill station program increased from 2.3 million gallons to 28.2 million.
But with a nearly average rainy season, DSRSD was able to end mandatory water conservation measures in June. The increased rainfall and lessened restrictions have caused a significant drop in recycled water use at the fill stations, with 2016 volume at 14.2 million gallons to date. The number of active individual users has also declined to 1,800, according to a DSRSD staff report for Tuesday's meeting.
At the meeting, staff presented the board with three options -- close the fill station for 2017 and reevaluate after plant renovation work is complete; reopen the facility in April for limited days and hours, or relocate and reopen the fill station in May.
While the latter options would have allowed for fill station use in 2017, they would each come at a cost of roughly $500,000 per year -- the same amount the program has cost annually. Relocating the facility would add at least $175,000 in construction costs, according to DSRSD staff.
Staff recommended that the board close the fill station for 2017.
Had the board elected to keep it open, staff recommended that a new annual permit fee of $170 be imposed for residents outside the DSRSD service area.
"Currently, the entire $500,000 cost of the residential recycled water water program is paid by Water Enterprise customers who reside in Dublin and Dougherty Valley," DSRSD staff said. "Only 25% of the program users are within the DSRSD water service area. Thus, Dublin and Dougherty Valley residents and businesses are subsidizing a program that primarily benefits users outside the district service area."
The board could reconsider these proposals when it takes up the issue again, or it could ask staff to bring forward new options, Olsen said.
For now, the fill station's last day will be Wednesday, when it will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. unless it rains. It will be closed this weekend.