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When the public sees the opening of a lavish hotel, a beautiful development or a sleek office tower, they might think of the architect and what a creative mind it took to produce such a sight. But what the public doesn't see are the efforts of an army of consultants to create a concept, prepare a plan and obtain approval from a myriad governmental agencies to be able to build the project. These days, that array of consultants is being led by water supply engineers and lawyers.

Historically, developing a project in an urban area served by a water district or a public agency was a relatively easy process. The district or agency would confirm capacity for the project and a water study was done to size the distribution lines. If the district or agency didn't have the capacity, storage tanks and facilities would have to be built to provide for the project.

Recently, state legislation, judicial decisions and a statewide drought have made the process of assuring water for a project a complex, costly and political procedure.

To be able to obtain entitlements, projects are required to use recycled water for irrigation, so that the demand for potable water is reduced. In addition, these projects are required to use low-demand fixtures as interior components, and are strongly encouraged to use native plantings for landscaping. Some projects are required to offset their increased demand on the potable water system by converting public parks from potable water use to recycled water.

All of these methods are utilized to reduce the demand for potable use.

A noteworthy project to increase the supply of potable water was recently approved by the California Coastal Commission. The proposed Encinas Desalination Project in Carlsbad is a desperately needed way to increase water supply in North Coastal San Diego County.

The long-term solution to reduce water supply shortages in San Diego County will consist of multi-faceted efforts. One facet will be to decrease the demand for potable water. Decreasing the demand for potable water will be improved by using drought-tolerant landscaping, using water-saving fixtures and appliances, educating the public regarding water waste around the house and educating businesses to reduce demand.

Another facet will be to increase the use of recycled water. Increasing the use of recycled water will reduce the demand for potable water. Recycled water can be used as irrigation on golf courses, parks, landscaping and utility uses in cooling towers and toilets.

Finally, increasing our supply of potable water from sources such as desalination is a must. Within arm's reach is a limitless supply of water that could easily meet the region's water needs well into the future. Tapping into this source is a must for our region to thrive and grow.

Submitted by Tim Murphy, associate principal with Rick Engineering Co.

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