News Feature | April 10, 2014

California City Makes 15-Year Commitment To Recycled Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

As the California drought drags on, a city near San Diego is getting ready to make treated wastewater available for irrigation—but the proposal comes with a big price tag. 

The Escondido City Council approved a plan this month to spend around $285 million on this effort over the next 15 years, according to U-T San Diego

"Council members said it was the best option for the city, where lack of sewer capacity threatens to stymie future commercial and residential development," the report said.  

The approved plan beat out a costlier alternative. Clocking in at $403 million, Plan B would have seen the city expanding the existing 18-mile sewage system in Escondido. Due to permitting requirements, such an endeavor would face challenges gaining regulatory clearance.

Funding would go to new recycled water and potable water reuse systems under the approved plan, the Coast News reported. Recycled water sales would be expected to draw in about $20 million per year starting in 2030, U-T San Diego said, citing a city councilman. 

“The saving grace is really we’re spending a lot of money but we’re getting some revenue back,” Councilmember Ed Gallo said in the Coast News.

The strategy would make Escondido more self-reliant by providing a drought-proof water source, according to proponents. 

"Because using sewage for irrigation would free up more local water for drinking and bathing, the city would be less reliant on imported water, stabilizing sewer and water rates. That would bolster the city’s large agriculture industry, which has been rocked by sharp rate increases during the last decade," said Chris McKinney, the city’s utilities director to U-T San Diego.  

Check out an early version of the approved Escondido proposal here

"The City’s recycled water distribution system serves approximately 81 meters with 12 in the limits of the City of Escondido water service area and 69 meters within the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District. These customers, coupled with recycled water use within the reclamation facility, account for approximately 4 million gallons per day of beneficial reuse," the document says. 

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