Over the Rainbow

California pump station upgrades to conserve water

Times of transition at a California Municipal District, as a local pump station will undergo a full redesign and installation makeover, replacing a number of its outdated pumps and natural gas motors with electric ones. Old reliables have served Rainbow Municipal Water District’s Pump Station No. 1 well—for at least 25 to 30 years—but the local board, as well as Infrastructure Engineering Corporation, who will team up to employ the upgrade, see it in their best interest to replace, instead of repair, at this point.

At a time when water is basically currency in Southern California, this contract hinged on a standard cost-of-maintenance-and-operations decision; thus, the vote was ultimately made for the long term. The Rainbow Municipal Water District is specially designated under Section 71000 of the California Water Code that provides water and sanitation services to the unincorporated communities of Rainbow, Bonsall, and portions of Vista, Oceanside and Fallbrook (these are areas in between Los Angeles and San Diego, if you’re brain isn’t quite Cali-brated.) IEC is an engineering, construction management, and environmental consulting firm primarily serving public agency clients, with seven offices throughout the Golden State.

The Rainbow board voted on August 23 to approve the contract with IEC, with upgrade costs worth up to $107,493. IEC, which has a nearby office in Oceanside, will prepare the plans and specifications that could include multiple options for upgrades to the pump station.

Pump Station #1 is no small operation—it propels water to a height of almost 2,000 feet above sea level from the surrounding North Zone, and has a capacity of 4 million gallons, per a report by Joe Naiman of the Fallbrook & Bonsall Village News. Pre-upgrade, the station currently houses two 250-hp pumps, one 290-hp pump, and one of the 300-hp variety. The four pumps combine for a total flow capacity of 3,509 gallons per minute, according to Naiman.

A pretext for the repurposing is the need to comply with current standards. The turnover of the two biggest pumps, the 300-hp and 290-hp, will redesign them by replacing their current natural gas engines with new electric drives and soft start electric motors, Rainbow general manager Tom Kennedy told Naiman. The new motors, as well as two existing electric motors operating currently, will all be outfitted with soft start control panels. Also to be replaced is the main incoming electrical panel. Lastly, an emergency backup gas-powered generator with an automatic transfer switch will be added in the redesign.

The natural gas motors are between 25 and 30 years old and are not compliant with current Air Pollution Control District standards. The replacement of the pumps will also have operating economic benefits for Rainbow. “The maintenance cost will go down,” Kennedy said. The replacement of the motors will also reduce Rainbow’s electricity consumption and thus the district’s energy costs.

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