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Archive for the ‘Purified recycled water’ Category

SDCWA special workshop on Poseidon Carlsbad desalination project

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 15, 2012

A San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Board of Directors special workshop on the Carlsbad Seawater Desalination Project was held Thursday, June 14.

On the agenda for the informational workshop was a) integration of the Carlsbad Desalination Project into existing infrastructure, b) examination of the range costs with comparisons to the unit cost of alternative local supplies, and c) incorporation of costs related to desalinated water from Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant into the Water Authority’s rates and charges.

Although it was an informational workshop, not a decision-making meeting, there were several people who took advantage of the public comment period before the session began, including Nate Cooper and Julia Chunn-Heer (representing the San Diego chapter of Surfrider Foundation) who encouraged that more effort be used on soliciting public input on desalination and that Indirect Potable Reuse (aka IPR, aka purified recycled water) be given a much higher priority than it now has in SDCWA’s strategic thinking.

Water Resources Director Ken Weinberg was the main speaker at the workshop. The first segment was to explain SDCWA’s efforts at “Balancing Treated Demand and Annual Contractual Commitment.”

SDCWA, being the water wholesaler to 24 member agencies in San Diego County, sells/provides both treated and untreated water. Approximately 60% of its deliveries are untreated water, 40% treated water. The desalinated water from the Poseidon Carlsbad facility is treated water. The question is how to integrate the treated desal water into the existing treated water infrastructure delivering that 40%.

Presently SDCWA gets its treated water via existing contractual (and even mechanically built-in*) requirements to buy a minimum amount of treated water from MWD (via the Skinner Water Treatment Plant) and needs to produce a minimum amount at its own Twin Oaks Valley WTP.

The Authority also provides treated water indirectly through arrangements with individual member agencies such as Helix Water District and the City of San Diego (who buy untreated water and treat it themselves) to provide treated water to areas that SDCWA can’t reach with its own infrastructure.

The prospect of SDCWA using the Poseidon Desalination facility as a new source of treated water meant that the countywide demand for treated water needed to be thoroughly analyzed, including study of local hydrology, seasonal variation, and projected future demand.

The goal: optimize the use of all regional treated water facilities and figure out what the Water Authority’s contracted annual minimum deliveries from Poseidon should be.

At one point it was acknowledged that the City of San Diego’s potential use of IPR wasn’t taken into account in the demand study because the city buys only untreated water from SDCWA and does its own treatment, i.e., if San Diego produces IPR water for itself there would be no effect on countywide demand for treated water.

Director Keith Lewinger picked up on this and made an interesting point that was startlingly obvious even though some of us may not have really considered it: if San Diego engages in a large-scale IPR operation it will buy less untreated water from SDCWA which could be financially harmful to SDCWA.

(The implication, in my view, is that this could influence just how much wholehearted support San Diego gets from SDCWA for implementing IPR on a large scale. Also, it seems to me that things will be quite complicated on many levels because San Diego’s purified recycled water (IPR) would reside in the San Vicente Reservoir but SDCWA will own the rights to the reservoir’s additional capacity when the dam raise project is completed. Many issues and kinds of water will be all mixed up.)

The second portion of the workshop focused on costs and how they would be incorporated into rates and charges. This part of the study is also extraordinarily complicated but I’ve no time or space to give justice to the breadth of that discussion.

Bradley Fikes gives the costs and rates issue a closer look in his North County Times story “Desal project would raise average water bills 7 percent“. Mike Lee’s U-T San Diego article “Carlsbad desal plant, pipe costs near $1 billion” chimes in on the issue.

The agenda, full audio recording of the workshop, and the presentation slides from the June 14 meeting are available on SDCWA’s website [link].

Note this was an informational workshop, not one where decisions were made. Check the presentation slides mentioned above. The last slide shows Next Steps listing future meeting dates and topics to be addressed (and opportunity for public commment, I hope) over the next several months.


* Mechanical, in that the meter/valve on the treated water pipeline incoming from MWD cannot measure the amount of flow if it is below the minimum contracted amount. If less is taken, payment for the full amount is still required.


Posted in Carlsbad Desalination Project, Poseidon Desalination Plant (Carlsbad), Purified recycled water, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water | 1 Comment »

Purified recycled water…it’s perfectly clear

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 29, 2012

Here’s a nicely done educational/promotional video (just over 5 minutes) from the San Diego County Water Authority with the collaboration of the Escondido Water District, Helix Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, and the City of San Diego.

These agencies are working hard to take advantage of purified recycled water to reduce our dependence on imported water, create the potential to improve the quality of the raw supplies now imported, reduce the amount of wastewater discarded into the ocean, and ultimately reduce the cost of water relative to imported water.

(if you’re a GrokSurf email subscriber, the video may not run in your mail program. In that case, just click on the title of the post to go to the web version)


Posted in Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Purified recycled water, Videos, Water | 6 Comments »

Equinox Center releases new report on IPR water for San Diego; City Council approves new IPR facility

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 27, 2010

Just in time for the San Diego City Council’s approval of a contract to build an advanced water treatment plant to be used in its Water Purification Demonstration Project, the Equinox Center has issued a new report highlighting the importance of IPR for San Diego. A copy of the report appears below.

Marsi Steirer, Deputy Director of the San Diego Water Department, said that the new facility will be open to the public with tours available, perhaps as soon as April of 2011. The Council voted 6-2 in favor of the facility, with Lightner and DeMaio opposed. Inexplicably, Lightner said one reason for her vote was that San Diego needs a “comprehensive sustainable water policy for the future.” She also said she was reluctant to support the facility because the city’s purple pipe recycling infrastructure had been “abandoned.” DeMaio, meanwhile, had slipped out of the meeting during discussion but reappeared in time to vote against it.

As for the Equinox Center report, it’s part of a new series on San Diego County’s critical water supply issues. The report documents how purified recycled water via the IPR process is a viable method of bolstering a diversified water supply for San Diego. The study is reprinted here with permission.


Posted in Purified recycled water, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Let’s use the water we have

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 9, 2010

“In this arid climate–our manufactured oasis–only 3 to 5 percent of the total water used is recycled water. This is despite the fact that we use 60 percent of all our water on outdoor uses, and 80 percent of all our water on non-potable uses. In California, 20 percent of the energy we burn is used to transport water, so that we can sprinkle potable water on our lawns.”

“We continue to blame Mother Nature and the Delta Smelt, but when it comes to matters within our own control our decision-making is poor…”

Click here to read the entire commentary from San Diego News Room


Posted in Environment, Purified recycled water, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Mayor Sanders lowers his guard against San Diego’s indirect potable reuse study

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 12, 2010

In 2007 Mayor Sanders vetoed the city council’s plan to conduct a feasibility study for indirect potable reuse (advanced purification of wastewater to potable standards). The city council overrode his veto, however, and project planning went forward. That project is now entering its Phase 2 stage.

Meanwhile in 2010, during an interview with the Voice of San Diego on Feb. 9, the mayor said he now supports the project. The San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association (SDCTA) posted this reaction:


I’m going to reserve judgement about the mayor. When he vetoed the project, the mayor was quoted as objecting for economic reasons. Now, project funding seems to be fairly secure, despite the city’s desperate financial situation, but additional funding will still be needed. As we can see, though, the mayor wasn’t exactly planning to formally promote the project here, he was simply being interviewed on a variety of topics, this happened to come up, and he made a diplomatic reply. So I’m not sure there’s great significance in his remark, at least not yet.

[note: Lani Lutar, president of SDCTA, informed me she contacted the mayor’s office to verify a shift in his position prior to issuing their congratulatory letter]

As for the project, I strongly hope it will prove the possibility of making recycled water a significant portion of potable, not just irrigation, water for San Diego. If you haven’t seen it, please do look at my earlier essay Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego.


Posted in Environment, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego recycled water project gets a boost from the city council

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 27, 2010

Last December in my post “Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego” I mentioned that the water department would soon be submitting a contract proposal for the Potable Reuse Demonstration Project. The wheels on this project certainly turn slowly!

At their October 29, 2007 meeting, the City Council voted to proceed with the Demonstration Project. On May 2009, the Public Utilities Department issued a Request for Proposals for Project Management and Public Outreach.

Yesterday (Jan. 26), the proposal went to the San Diego City Council which approved “an Agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the Project Management and Public Outreach for the Demonstration Project, in an amount not to exceed $3,281,353” ($1,499,611 of that amount will be for the public outreach and education program).

City Council Docket (item #334)
Council meeting video (relevant portion starts at 03:10:30)

This important item passed with a 5-3 vote, with Young, Frye, Hueso, Emerald & Gloria voting in favor. Lightner, DeMaio, and Faulconer against (the video shows the electronic vote tally at 6-2, but it turned out that Frye “playfully” pressed DeMaio’s button ‘yes’ before he could send his ‘no’ vote).

It’s true that’s a good chunk of money from the city’s tight budget, but this is a vital step towards reducing San Diego’s dependence on imported water and it should have been unanimously approved. The mayor’s continued opposition to the water reuse project is also troubling. Despite this project having been approved long ago, the Mayor along with DeMaio and Lightner seem determined to keep it from proceeding!

Mike Lee from the Union-Tribune further highlights the action in this report.

Posted in Environment, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

San Diego recycled water presentation at UCSD

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 14, 2010

A seminar on San Diego’s water recycling program on Jan. 13 included an overview of the city’s Indirect Potable Reuse/Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project currently underway. The seminar was sponsored by UCSD’s Sustainability Solutions Institute. Marsi Steirer, Deputy Director of Long Range Planning and Water Resources, San Diego Water Department, was the featured speaker. A copy of the slides from her presentation is embedded below.

Although much of the presentation recapped information already available on San Diego’s Water Department website it was a good opportunity to review the project highlights in person and to hear the question/answer session afterwards.

One thing that caught my eye was the slide indicating that San Diego imports about 75% of its water, because most water department web pages I’ve seen indicate between 85-90%. Ms. Steirer explained that the number varies from year to year and the higher figure reflects a long-term average whereas the lower number is an “actual number.” Also I was disappointed that the city’s current water recycling rate of 3.1% was projected to increase only to 4.7% by 2030. Responding to that, Marsi stated that the figures in the slide were based on a 2005 planning document and that the numbers will likely change after the demonstration study is completed and the city council approves new goals. One person wondered if it makes sense to install a separate “purple pipe” infrastructure for recycled water if there is a possibility that all recycled water will eventually receive advanced purification to potable standards, in which case purple pipes wouldn’t be needed any more. Marsi indicated that they’re still struggling with that issue.

Another opportunity for the public to hear Ms. Steirer give a presentation on this topic is coming up on Wednesday, January 20, at a Surfrider Foundation meeting to be held at Forum Hall in University Towne Center.

UPDATE Feb 2, 2010: If you missed both of the above presentations, the Surfrider Foundation has a video of their Jan. 20 session.

(navigate the slides with the scroll bar or buttons at bottom, or point at slide and use mouse wheel)


Posted in Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 14, 2009

July 2009: low water level in Lake Mead near Hoover Dam

Whether you believe global warming contributes to drought or that when the drought is over our problems will go away, the fact is that water scarcity is not a temporary condition in Southern California. For one thing, our access to Colorado River water is decreasing. But California’s take of Colorado River water is not dropping because of drought or politics. Yes, there is growth and development everywhere and western states are taking more water from the Colorado River than ever, but the reason for our reduction is that we have to stop taking more than we are legally entitled to.

For years California withdrew more than its legal allotment of Colorado River water by as much as 800,000 acre feet per year. This was permitted because other states, primarily Arizona and Nevada, were not taking the full amount they are legally entitled to. But as those states increasingly began taking their share, California was forced to begin making adjustments to live within its means and move to comply with its legal allocation of 4.4 million acre feet per year. So, too, San Diego is adjusting to a reduction in water deliveries from the Colorado River that will be permanent, in addition to the latest cutbacks from Northern California. Plus, even when the Colorado River flows at “normal” levels — a rate which is increasingly uncertain — it may not produce enough water to permit everybody to take their full share, especially when you consider that the allotments were based on unrealistically high flow rate projections.

San Diego’s heavy dependence on Colorado River water places it in a very vulnerable position, especially with the prospect of reduced deliveries from northern California. Fortunately, these days a growing number of San Diegans are becoming more aware of our heavy dependence on imported water and the importance of long-term sustainable approaches to meet our demand. My question is: how much will citizens support further recycling to make San Diego more independent in providing for its water requirements?

The San Diego County Water Authority and the San Diego Water Department began working many years ago on ways to reduce our reliance on imported water. They negotiated the purchase of water conserved by Imperial Valley farmers for transfer to San Diego. We’re currently receiving water under the agreement although two new lawsuits challenging the transfer were recently filed [–yes, technically that’s still imported water]. A new desalination plant is in the works in Carlsbad (that’s still being challenged as well). The San Vicente Dam is being raised to increase its capacity. Additional groundwater sources are being studied. Two water reclamation plants were built to treat wastewater for irrigation and industrial use in the northern and southern regions (and the city could probably use a third for the central areas). There is renewed emphasis on water conservation. And now more important than ever, there’s the possibility of highly advanced treatment of wastewater for indirect potable reuse.

North City Water Reclamation Plant

Actually, the San Diego City Council in 1989 passed an ordinance requiring wide use of recycled water. For whatever reasons, recycling then languished for years. Then growing support for recycling led to the construction of the two recycling plants, but an indirect potable water reuse project was vetoed by Mayor Sanders in 2007. Although scientific studies established that water quality from highly advanced treatment not only equals but exceeds the quality of water that is currently distributed for potable purposes, the mayor and other opponents of the plan used the “toilet-to-tap” label and other inflammatory rhetoric to fight the project. Fortunately, clearer minds prevailed and the veto was overridden by the city council (Mike Lee recounts this history at

The Water Purification Demonstration Project is making some progress now. The project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of providing highly advanced treatment and disinfection for 1 million gallons of water per day, bringing it to indirect potable standards and supplementing the city’s water supplies by blending it with water in the San Vicente reservoir.

The San Diego Water Department is planning to give a presentation on this topic at UCSD sometime in January. They also will submit a public outreach and education contract proposal to the city council in early 2010. Keep your eyes open for announcements. [update below]

A moderate amount of recycled water is being used now, but there’s plenty of unused production capacity. Purifying it to indirect potable standards could and should be a significant component of San Diego’s efforts to reduce reliance on imported water. If the IPR study is successful and the technology is approved for production, the process could produce up to 16MGD of potable water. It absolutely makes sense to reuse as much water as possible that otherwise goes wasted into the ocean. When the Water Department’s outreach and education efforts begin rolling out next year, I hope enlightened San Diegans will reject the fearmongering by opponents and throw their support behind this worthwhile project.

UPDATE Jan 27, 2010:The public outreach contract mentioned above was brought to the Jan. 26 San Diego City Council meeting where they approved “an Agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the Project Management and Public Outreach for the Demonstration Project, in an amount not to exceed $3,281,353.” (City Council Docket Item #334)

For continuing coverage on indirect potable reuse, please see the Indirect potable reuse page

Click here for background resources

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »