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Marin Water

MMWD Keeps on Studying vs. Doing

The MMWD just spent $650,000 on a year-long study conducted by Jacobs Engineering on how to shore up its water supply. At the onset, this study was expected to be completed at a cost of around $400,000 in less than 6 months. The study explored in technical detail various options, including desalination and reservoir expansion.

After such a long and detailed study, the MMWD should have been ready to move on to project selection and bids.

Instead, the MMWD is seeking additional studies resulting in substantial delays before the MMWD can move on toward the bidding process.

The MMWD is seeking a grant of $200,000 to further study desalination in Petaluma. The MMWD would leverage federal funds and not use its own monies. Nevertheless, this study's cost estimate seems very high and will result in substantial time delays. At $300 per hour (the going rate for consultants), this study would result in a 666 person-hours project. That seems like a lot of time to study this single project.

The MMWD is also seeking another study on reservoir expansion. This study seems much more futile. The MMWD is seeking a grant for $662,000 matched by a $729,000 contribution in MMWD staff time on a reservoir study expansion.

The reservoir expansion study appears very expensive given its very narrow topic. It focuses on the expansion of only three reservoirs to expand total storage from 80,000 acre-feet (AF) to 100,000 AF. The study also analyzes the impact of reservoir expansion on stream flows.

The MMWD civil engineers and scientists should be more knowledgeable than any external consultants regarding this specific reservoir expansion and its impact on stream flows. And, MMWD should have already figured this all out over the past year during the Jacobs Engineering study.

Instead, this reservoir expansion study will be very time-consuming. At about $300 per hour, the external consultants would spend about 2,200 person-hours on this project. The MMWD internal cost per hour per employee comes out to less than $150. This would entail MMWD spending over 5,000 person-hours on the project.

Exactly two years ago, we were less than 12 months away from running out of water. Now two years later, the MMWD just keeps on studying and studying. And, we still do not have a single additional drop of water supply.

If the MMWD would reallocate the prospective thousands of person-hours to actually moving forward on the selected projects, it would be that much closer to shoring up our 4-year water supply security.