News Feature | November 9, 2016

San Diego Accelerates Water Reuse Plans

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

San Diego has big ambitions for recycled water, and the city took steps in October to accelerate its plans.

The city council approved an environmental analysis and an accelerated timeline to support its recycled water goals, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The council also okayed a $52 million outlay to support its water reuse programs and a plan to use methane to power water purification processes, the report said.

“The council approved plans to begin recycling 30 million gallons a day of sewage into drinking water by 2021, much quicker than a previous schedule calling for 15 million gallons daily by 2023 and 30 million gallons per day by 2027,” the report said.

Proponents say bolstering San Diego's water recycling system “is crucial for San Diego to become more water-independent and be less at the mercy of imported water suppliers who have continually raised rates,” the report said.

Councilman Scott Sherman made that argument at a council meeting.

“If we’re ever going to get self-sufficient on water, this is one part of a many-pronged approach,” Sherman said, per the report. “We need to make this investment so we can lower costs in the future.”

Proponents of the reuse plan, dubbed “Pure Water,” note that the city “currently depends on importing 85 percent of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River.”

The plan still needs state approval, which could be complicated by the fact that the city plans to store treated water above ground, rather than underground, a deviation from practices by other California facilities, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“San Diego doesn’t have a large enough underground water basin to take that approach,” the report said, citing city officials.

Desalination is another important facet of the water supply plan for the San Diego area. The largest desalination plant in the U.S. opened in San Diego County last year.

With the opening “of the Western Hemisphere's largest ocean desalination plant, a new era began for water use in San Diego County — and possibly for the entire parched state,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.