Member Case Study – June 2017

  • by Emily Allshouse
  • Jun 16, 2017
  • Newsletters

Carmichael WD’s American River Pipeline Project: Meeting Regional Water Needs


For more than 50 years, industrial solvents and other chemicals used during rocket manufacturing at the Aerojet campus in Rancho Cordova had been slowly infiltrating the groundwater beneath the facility, contaminating the water supply for nearby private water utility Golden State Water Company.

In 2012, a multi-million dollar settlement was reached between Aerojet and Golden State in which the aerospace company agreed to provide the utility with replacement water and fund improvements to mitigate future contamination.

But even with the settlement in place, Golden State Water Company still needed a regional partner with the know-how and resources to get the job done.

Using a special pressure drilling method to ensure that the river bed and channel remain undisturbed, CWD crews work to install a portion of the American River Pipeline Conveyance Project 80 feet below the American River bed.


Carmichael Water District fit the bill as a perfect partner. The district came to the project with 100 years of experience in the water industry, extensive expertise in permitting, regulatory compliance, engineering and development, and available capacity at its water treatment plant.

Working “hand-in-hand” with Aerojet and Golden State through a public-private partnership, CWD took the lead in implementing an ambitious solution to Golden State’s problem – the American River Pipeline Conveyance Project.

Not only would the project ensure a clean water supply for neighboring Golden State customers, it also would provide an additional water supply for CWD to help guard against future droughts.

The $6.6 million project, which broke ground in summer 2015, works by allowing CWD to recover remediated Aerojet groundwater discharged to the American River, leverage existing capacity at its Bajamont Micro Filtration Water Treatment Plant to treat the water, and then deliver it to Golden State through a 7,400-foot pipeline.

Construction of the pipeline, which weaves through an existing neighborhood and the American River Parkway at Rossmoor Bar before crossing the American River upstream of Ancil Hoffman Park, presented some unique challenges, however.

Sequencing the stages of construction, obtaining the required permitting, negotiating final agreements with private industry partners, and ensuring regulatory requirements were met — including converting the district’s existing public tax-exempt bonds into private bonds — proved to be quite the juggling act.

Because the American River is a federally designated “wild and scenic” river, permitting for the project was lengthy and complicated. According to Carmichael Water District General Manager Steve Nugent, it took 21 months and support from U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) to get the permits needed for a specific portion of work only allowed during a 45-day window from September to October.

To ensure continued access to a parkway bike trail during construction of the American River Pipeline Conveyance Project, Carmichael Water District opted to elevate the pipeline and allow riders to pass under the project.

The district also had to ensure continued public access to the American River Parkway during construction. This meant that 2,000 feet of pipeline that would have otherwise obstructed a bike path in the parkway had to be hoisted into the air to allow riders to pass beneath it – providing an intriguing sight for passersby!

But despite these challenges, the district says it was happy to take the lead.

“We look for opportunities to continue to push our mission forward,” said Nugent, when asked why the district volunteered to spearhead the project. The project, he said, fits perfectly with the district’s commitment to finding local water supply reliability solutions through collaborative regional water management.

Tackling Existing Environmental Issues

“There were also some existing environmental issues we wanted to correct. Since we were already pulling permits, this was a good time to do it,” he added.

Those environmental issues included removing abandoned water assets along the American River, a commitment the district had made to the local community years earlier.

The environmental restoration efforts included the removal of 400 feet of 22-inch diameter exposed steel pipe dating back to the 1950s, three concrete intake structures, a failing riveted steel culvert, and large buried valves. The district also reconnected an upstream riparian habitat that had long been separated from the primary American River channel by freefall discharge from a 65-year old culvert.

Because the Aerojet settlement did not include this aspect of the project, the district funded the $600,000 environmental restoration with assistance from the Regional Water Authority using monies from a larger Proposition 84 regional grant.

Project Captures Environmental Award

With a new Sacramento Environmental Commission award for their restoration efforts, district officials say they are proud that CWD could honor its commitment to the community while at the same time providing clean water for area residents.

“This award means everything to the district,” said CWD Public Information Officer Chris Nelson. “It means the greater community is watching and appreciates what’s being done by the district.”

In addition to the SEC award, public response also has been positive, with several neighborhood newsletters praising the project.

“A few times in your career you get to do a project like this,” said Nugent, while accepting the SEC award during a ceremony on April 17.

The project, which became fully operational in January 2017, now delivers 4.5 million gallons of treated water per day — with a total delivery of 5,000 acre-feet per year — to Golden State. Above and beyond that, the pipeline also provides 2,200 acre-feet per year of drought-resilient emergency water supply for CWD.

“The project is working flawlessly. It’s meeting all of the demands. There have been no hitches in operation. It’s very successful,” said Nugent.

With the pipeline complete, the district now has turned its eye towards future regional efforts – working to develop water projects with the Fair Oaks Water District, Del Paso Manor Water District, and Sacramento County Water Agency, as well as a new project with Golden State.

“When you have a successful project, you become very popular,” said Nugent.

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