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Dedication of Chino Desalination Plant

Remarks Delivered By:
Michael L. Connor, Commissioner
Chino, Calif
October 11, 2012


It's a pleasure to be here. As John mentioned, I first met him... It was one of those situations. It was well before 2009, when the project was authorized for Bureau of Reclamation participation.

That's the nature of how things work on Capitol Hill. It just takes a while, but we had lots of meetings and lots of visits back there, so I think it's great that I finally get a chance to be out here celebrating this event, the expansion of the Desalter Project. It's a great project.

Congressman Calvert has long been a leader in these efforts, in leading the Water and Power Subcommittee on the House side, for a number of years, and then pushing for projects like this, targeted investments to solve problems at the local level.

I appreciate your leadership. It has set the foundation for a lot of what we do today. I appreciate the fact that you trained a lot of good staff, who became good friends of mine, and we got more stuff done during my tenure in the Senate.

I just want to say, Dr. Chapman, I appreciate your reference to baseball and leadoff hitters. I guess that puts me in the cleanup position, but it's a little flipped today. I don't think anybody who's given a $51 million grant, compared to the Bureau of Reclamation's $4 million grant, as far as 2012, can claim a leadoff hitter role. We probably should have switched places, but I appreciate it.

Great partnership, obviously, in this region. I was assured, in the discussion that we had earlier on, that it wasn't a seamless partnership. It's like a family, and I get that reference. There's give and take, and compromises that have to be made, but the bottom line is it works, so congratulations on the great Power subcommittee put together here to run this project, and the cooperation going on, on a regional level.

One of the things I just wanted mention, this has been a tough year for a lot of communities in California with respect to water scarcity and drought. That always is a concern, but across the country, there were just wide swathes of the country, I think at one time up to 65 to 70 percent in a serious drought situation or worse.

In fact, I think one of the things it does, is once again focus people's understanding of water issues, how important it is to local economies, and how important it is to be proactive in trying to get ahead of dealing with water scarcity issues that are going to come to all communities at some point in time in this process.

This is an example, a great example, borne from necessity, but also the skills of the people involved. A great example of proactive engagement to bring people of collective talents and resources together to bear on finding solutions for this region that will keep water flowing and the economy growing.

I think that's a testament to all of you. It's a lesson to be learned by other communities. California, for all the criticism that comes your way, is just a terrific leader on water issues. A lot of these ideas and collaborative efforts need to be exported across the West.

I'm always impressed with the State of California, even in these tight budget times, serious economic conditions, applying lots of resources and a lot of focus on solving water issues. They're endless here, but that's because of the size of the economy, the size of the population here, and the opportunities that still exist in California. Those water needs still exist. There's plenty of projects, as we all know.

I spent a good amount of my time working on Bay Delta issues in Sacramento, as some of my staff refer to it, my "second home." The State of California does have an appropriate focus on the need to work with these local regional partnerships, and solve these problems. That $51 million shows that there's a lot of skin in the game, from the state's perspective.

As outlined, this is a very impressive project, the 10,500 acre feet that will be available, that were mentioned. You outlined the benefits, Dr. Chapman, of water supply. I think Tom outlined the environmental benefits that are associated with this project.

I think this is going to be one of those where it's going to be viewed now, and in the future, as a very good investment. It helps to have the economic benefits immediately, that were outlined earlier with respect to jobs and opportunities.

It's going to lay that foundation and that investment, so when water scarcity issues are prevalent, your local, regional economy has a good supply of water to rely on.

We at the Bureau of Reclamation are proud to be partners in this effort.

I think it's also very wise, and a strategic decision, to try and reduce your reliance on the California Bay Delta and the Colorado River. I work on those issues on a daily basis. We're going to do everything we can to enhance the reliability and the affordability of those supplies from those two areas, but you don't control your own future with respect to those imported sources of water. A project of this size that helps limit that reliance is a very good thing.

Overall, from Reclamation's perspective, we put in $4 million in 2012. I think we had an earlier $1.6 million grant, so we're getting up there. I think I'm going to show my competitive nature now, and just say, even though it's $5.6 million for this project, overall, this is part of our Title XVI Reclamation and Water Reuse program.

Since its inception in 1992, and the strong support of Congressman Calvert and others, I think we've invested something on the order of $580 million in projects such as this. The vast majority of that has probably been in Southern California. I'd say at least 75 to 80 percent of that investment has been in Southern California; $580 million is the figure I want you to leave here with, as opposed to $5.6.

I told John I wasn't going to hijack his event, and it's not my intent to, but as I noted, this is part of our Title XVI program. This is overall part of our Water SMART initiative at the Department of the Interior. This was a program, Water SMART, and it stands for Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow. It's the sustainable management of America's resources for tomorrow. That's the whole goal here, is that we need to have in place sustainable solutions that we can rely on, long term, with respect to our water needs. The program was initiated by Secretary Salazar, through secretarial order in 2010.

It's an outgrowth of the Secure Water Act, which was enacted in March of 2009 as part of Public Law 111 11, which was the same law that authorized Reclamation to participate in this particular project. Basically, what we've tried to do is combine existing programs with new initiatives, and really define what is it that's the proper federal role, with respect to water and pursuing sustainable water supplies for people, the economy, and the environment.

Today, we are releasing a three year progress report on our Water SMART program. That's going to highlight the gains that we think have been made through the Water SMART program over the last three years, in stretching limited supplies, of making targeted investments to implement innovative water supply projects. Certainly, this is one of those, here today.

Also, overall, some of the new initiatives are really trying to apply science in the best way possible, to understand so that we can better manage this resource of water. That's really the impetus for this particular project, is a great understanding of the groundwater basin, the threats that existed to the Santa Ana River associated with that, and a way to turn that threat into an opportunity and move all across the West. That's part of our Water SMART program.

Some of the highlights from the program is through these investments and innovative water supply projects such as the Chino Desalter. Through our water conservation efforts, overall, we've facilitated the supply of about 588,000 acre feet of water, on an annual basis, through the investments that we've made over the last three years.

Really, on a cost share basis, we're just one of many partners in these type of projects. This isn't our accomplishment, the Bureau of Reclamation's; it's collectively ours, and all of yours.

We've also highlighted, through that program, a lot of the water energy nexus aspects that exist. When you do projects like this, and you reduce your reliance on imported supplies, there's lots of opportunities for energy conservation, as part of these good water supply projects.

We've projected and it's identified in this report that we've saved about 40 million megawatt hours of electricity, enough for about 3,400 homes on an annual basis, through these water efficiency projects that have energy efficiency aspects to them.

The report also highlights some of the new initiatives we have, with respect to basin studies, where we're working with the states and partners to really understand the supply and demand projections that we have in different river basins across the West. There's a number of them going on in California.

We will release our basin study for the Colorado River Basin, which Terry Fulp, our regional director, helped initiate a couple years ago. That's going to come out in November.

That's going to really identify, and probably raise some alarm bells, about that supply and demand and balance, but also look toward some solutions that we are hoping to implement in partnership, as was mentioned earlier by Deborah, with local entities, regional entities, the states, and of course our participation.

I just want to highlight once again the program. I think it provides a good foundation for all of you to advocate for projects such as this. I think the most important thing it does, overall, is to highlight the examples and the progress and the opportunities from these partnerships and collaborative efforts between folks at the local, regional, state and federal level.

That's the good news story about this. All across the West, we're implementing good, smart water management projects that are in blue states, that are in red states, that are in purple states.

We're doing good things with all of our partners because everybody understands the need to invest in good water management solutions.

This is one of those where I'm proud to say the themes here have been the same from all of the speakers, about the benefits of these programs. That's a nice place to be, these days.

I'm certainly proud that we're here, today. Terry, Bill, our staffs at the Bureau of Reclamation, who have worked with you all, we're proud to be here as part of the Chino Desalter celebration because this is the perfect example of what we're trying to accomplish through the Water SMART program. It's very appropriate to highlight this today.

Thank you very much.

For More Information:

WaterSMART