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.