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State and Federal Regulations Have an Impact – In Safety, Assurance and in Cost

By Greg Thomas, General Manager, Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District

Greg ThomasIt may seem like there is not much to it – you turn on the tap and fresh drinking water flows every time. Providing our customers with a clean, safe and reliable water supply is the hallmark of Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD). 

We often talk about delivery systems for our water – the critical infrastructure and expert employees we invest in to ensure that water is delivered to your home 24/7. However, an additional cost factor that is easily overlooked is the cost of compliance. 

Whether it is state and federal drinking water regulations, safety regulators or local jurisdictions, EVMWD must comply with many standards as we provide our community with the highest quality water and wastewater services.

Federal and State regulators for water, including the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), require water districts to sample and test water for a variety of contaminants that travel in water naturally and are treated at the District before water is ready for the tap. Our water compliance and production teams perform over 19,500 tests each year to ensure we are meeting or exceeding State and Federal standards. 

EVMWD’s wastewater treatment process is also highly regulated to ensure the water produced is safe to release back into the environment as recycled water used for irrigation and supplementing water into Lake Elsinore. 

To meet many of these regulations, EVMWD invests in its staff, who must be trained and qualified. All EVMWD staff who work with our water and wastewater systems must maintain current certifications and continuously learn about everchanging federal, state, and local standards.  While it is clear these regulations are both necessary and valuable, they do come at a cost. 

These regulations cost the EVMWD more than $7.6 million dollars each year, marking water and wastewater compliance as one the District’s most significant expenses.   Upholding our critical infrastructure and providing day-to-day maintenance of the water and wastewater systems also requires safe working conditions for our equipment and team. State and local departments regulate vehicles, facilities and working conditions at the District. Whether it’s a small pickup truck used to service residential meters or larger vactor trucks, which maintain large sewer main pipes throughout the system, EVMWD’s fleet of vehicles must also meet state standards set by Air Quality Management District and pay licensing costs to the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Certain facilities, such as EVMWD’s Railroad Canyon Dam and Lee Lake Dam, are also held to standards set by the California Department of Safety of Dams. Workplaces are kept safe by meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Environmental regulations mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act for projects related to the repair or replacement of water and wastewater infrastructure must also be performed.  Combined with the vehicle requirements, these annual costs total over $1 million dollars to ensure safety, licensing and maintenance standards are met.  

When all compliance-related expenses are totaled, costs are approximately $9.5 million dollars annually. This is about 30 percent of an average customer’s bill. While this is a significant portion of our customer’s bills, it is part of our commitment to deliver safe, reliable water to our customers. 

The health and safety of our community is the top priority of the District, as well as of state and federal regulators. Each and every compliance measure is designed to protect you – our valuable customer. Through these requirements, you are given a set of important guarantees when it comes to our commitment to service and investments.

You are guaranteed your tap water meets some of the strictest water standards in the nation. You can rest assured that EVMWD closely observes all the guidelines and requirements to meet and exceed the expectations that are required as part of our commitment to great customer service. And with each measure towards compliance EVMWD takes, you can be confident that you are receiving reliable, high quality drinking water straight from your tap.