Municipal Water Leader
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Volume 2 Issue 4 April 2016 The Importance of Diversifying Water Supplies and Educating the Public

In times of continued drought in the western United States, a diverse water supply portfolio not only makes sense, it is the best path forward for long-term success. Our interview with Mr. Paul Jones, general manager of the Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) reads like a how-to management guide for other municipal water providers on diversifying water supplies and conducting public outreach. EMWD’s overall business philosophy is especially important.

“We approach our service as more than simply a water delivery and wastewater operation—we try to think of ourselves as an integrated resource management agency,” said Mr. Jones. This is a telling comment on the overall thinking of EMWD’s board of directors and leadership. It is an everything approach and a long-term view toward water delivery and wastewater management. From the installation of solar facilities at its treatment plants and offices and use of wastewater biogas toward energy independence to the development of brackish desalination and wastewater recycling, EMWD has a diverse portfolio of ongoing efforts to augment its energy and water supplies. The achieved 72 percent desalination efficiency and 100 percent wastewater reuse are impressive accomplishments and have helped reduce EMWD’s reliance on imported water supplies from 80 to 50 percent.

To help manage future needs, EMWD’s public outreach program focuses on its customers’ long-term water use efficiency. The district has worked closely with its county government to develop ordinances that discourage the use of nonfunctional turf in favor of more climate-appropriate landscaping. Additionally, EMWD conducts a robust water use efficient educational program with approximately 600,000 grade school students annually. Another important educational effort is EMWD’s commitment to building and maintaining strong working relationships with its state and federal partners: the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers, and its congressional delegation.

“We make a point to visit with them often to educate them about our projects and work together to solve any challenges that may arise,” said Mr. Jones.

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com