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Council Acting on Well at Town Center Despite Other Claims to Water

Padre Dam and City of San Diego claim rights to the same water Santee is trying to tap for irrigation at Town Center Park.

The Santee City Council voted at the last meeting to begin obtaining proposals for a project to construct a water well that would help save on costs of irrigating Town Center Park. The council gave the go-ahead while acknowledging that the City of San Diego and Padre Dam Municipal Water District both sent letters to the City of Santee that claim rights to the water in the Santee-El Monte Basin that the well would tap.

"The City of San Diego has long established Pueblo water rights within the San Diego River System, including rights to both surface and groundwater,"
San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith wrote in a letter.

"The proposed water well would negatively impact Padre Dam and/or water quality in the Santee Basin," Padre Dam CEO Allen Carlisle wrote in his letter.

Santee City Attorney Shawn Hagerty said there was nothing that prevented the council from moving forward with advertising for proposals for the project, and that all concerns about water rights will be addressed before the council makes a final vote to construct the project.

"Whenever you search for water in California there will be a fight for that water," said Hagerty.

A number of councilmembers asked about the possibility of the city getting caught up in lawsuits with groups that claim rights to the water they would be tapping into.

"It is possible that once the well is drilled a number of groups will claim water rights," said Hagerty. "You can never be absolutely certain that won't happen."

Padre Dam has announced a proposed aquifer recharge project, known as an "indirect potable reuse project" (IPR) in that same aquifer. According to Hagerty, Padre Dam is looking to get 1.8 million gallons a day from that project

"If they [Padre Dam] recharge it, they don't want Santee taking it," said Hagerty.

In their letter, Padre Dam wrote that the well might affect the water yield for their IPR project, a project they say is of more benefit to the residents than the irrigation well. The Municipal Water District also claims exclusive rights to "the return flow of imported water in the Santee Basin... as the only water importer in the Santee Basin."

Councilmember John Minto asked how much water was in the well and how tapping this aquifer could affect the city and residents in the future.

"With each rain cycle water trickles into the groundwater," said Deputy City Manager Pedro Orso-Delgado.

"We have a unique situation in which there are two reservoirs nearby that are leaking into the aquifer as well. You would need hundreds or thousands of wells to dry the San Diego River aquifer," he said.

Accoring to Orso-Delgado, the city needs about 24,000 gallons a day for irrigation east of Woodglen Creek, and the city is unsure exactly how much water the well would provide.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to move forward with obtaining proposals for the project.

According to city estimates, the cost of constructing the well, $205,000, would be paid off in about two years time, as it is estimated it will save the city about $104,000 annually in irrigation expenses. If a plan is approved, well installation is estimated to begin summer of 2013.

Mary February 04, 2013 at 09:57 PM
Maybe too simplistic, but who owns the land where the well would be built? Would it be a vertical line? Why is the city of San Diego allowed to claim rights to all surface and groundwater of the San Diego River? If Santee needs about 24,000 gallons a day, and Padre Dam is looking to get 1.8 million gallons a day from the water in the Santee-El Monte Basin what is the big deal? Sounds like there is enough to go around. Why does the city of San Diego or Padre Dam MWD have rights to the water that would supersede the city of Santee to the available underground water?
buzidebbee February 04, 2013 at 11:21 PM
Maybe Padre Dam Water District should offer the City of Santee a large discount on water so they wouldn't have to resort to the well. The money that will be spent in a court battle is only going to end up costing the citizens. Our water rates are high enough. Work this out people and stop penalizing the citizens. Do your job!
Earlene February 06, 2013 at 07:10 PM
It appears as though G R E E D has enveloped the entire County of San Diego as there is a mad fight to claim whatever drops of water might be available to increase the revenues of the various water companies who want to participate in this brawl. This well should belong to the land and city of wherever it will be located and it appears that would be the City of Santee. (It's like a bunch of mad dogs fighting over a piece of meat!) Back off Padre Dam and the City of San Diego!....if we build it, it belongs to US and we will offer up one fight to keep it that way in a court of law.

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