GrokSurf's San Diego

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Posts Tagged ‘Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project’

Thinking about San Diego’s IPR water project

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 12, 2010

On Jan. 26, 2010, the San Diego City Council directed the Mayor to execute an agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the project management and public outreach for the Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Project, recently renamed the Water Purification Demonstration Project.

As long as we’re still waiting for official outreach on the subject, here are some things that could probably use some early discussion. First a brief history.

Faced with the fact that 90% of San Diego County’s demand for water must be satisfied by importing it from hundreds of miles away in the Colorado River and Northern California, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) looked for ways to reduce its dependence on outside sources. The region was facing possible cutbacks in water allocations from the Colorado River, supplies from Northern California were at risk not only from periodic droughts but from complicated state-wide legal, political, and environmental constraints — not to mention a vast costly infrastructure that required constant maintenance and was vulnerable to damage from earthquakes or other disasters — and there was a growing population driving new development which required more water.

Among the possibilities SDCWA looked at were seawater desalination, potential new groundwater resources, water conservation, water transfers from other agencies, water recycling, and water reuse.

To address one of these fronts, SDCWA decided on a project that would perform a feasibility study for a water purification project that would take tertiary-treated water from the City of San Diego’s North City Water Reclamation Plant, and purify it with advanced techniques (micro filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet radiation, and peroxide conditioning).

Tests had shown that the resulting purified water exceeded federal and state drinking water standards. In other words, it was higher in quality than the raw water we import.

The plan was to use the purified water to augment the raw imported water supply at San Vicente Reservoir. The water would remain in detention for at least six months per regulation, and then as with all raw imported water, it would go the normal route to a potable water treatment plant and be delivered to customers.

It seemed like a great project: it would reduce the amount of water we needed to purchase elsewhere, it would supply us with high quality drinking water, it was was more reliable because it wasn’t subject to disruptions in water supply lines delivering imported water, and it was virtually drought-proof.

Is this the Water Purification Demonstration Project mentioned above? Not exactly. It describes a project from 1993.

What ever happened to that project?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Water, Water Purification Demonstration Project | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

A primer/refresher on San Diego’s Water Purification Demonstration Project

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 7, 2010


San Diego’s Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project, with roots going back to 2004, intends to supplement the city’s water resources with purified reclaimed water. For discussion purposes, the name is often shortened to IPR Project and for publicity purposes the Water Department plans to use the term Water Purification Demonstration Project. The City’s public outreach and education program is still in development, so this article should give you a good basic understanding of the Project.


San Diego has two large water reclamation plants that treat wastewater to tertiary standards. Tertiary water is clean enough to be used for irrigation and industrial applications in San Diego (and has been for many years), but is not considered quite good enough to drink. Here are a few photos from the San Diego North City Water Reclamation Plant (all photos in this article are mine):

Primary clarifier, where heavy particles sink to the bottom of the tank and are removed.

Secondary clarifier, where organic solids sink to the bottom of the tank and are separated from the treated wastewater.

EDR (Electro Dialysis Reversal) area of the plant, where portions of the reclaimed water receive additional treatment for removal of dissolved solids.

Chlorine contact basin where recycled water is treated with chlorine to kill any remaining bacteria.

This is where the IPR Project begins. It will take the tertiary treated water from the North City Water Reclamation Plant and subject it to a series of advanced treatment processes that will result in water that is said to be nearly distilled water quality. Once it actually begins operations, the Project will spend a year producing and analyzing the highly treated water to determine if it would be feasible for use as a supplement to our water supply. This graphic illustrates the additional treatment given to the tertiary water:

If the study proves to everyone’s satisfaction that the water is reliably pure, and if the San Diego City Council and Mayor along with the residents of the city agree, the Project envisions that 16 million gallons of water per day (for starters) could supplement our city’s drinking water supply.

Here’s a short interview with an Australian water researcher with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Like San Diego, Australia has a long-term water supply problem and is also looking for IPR to help address its water needs.

Note that the discussion in the video indicates that with reverse osmosis the water is approaching distilled quality. In San Diego’s plan, the water will additionally receive ultraviolet treatment, peroxide treatment, and additional pipeline chlorination prior to mixing with the raw water supply. Then it will be aged in the reservoir for a period of time and eventually given final conditioning at a water treatment plant prior to distribution.

Consider: Our raw imported water contains treated wastewater from upstream users (including greater Las Vegas, which sends ALL of its highly treated wastewater [an average of 193 million gallons per day] into Lake Mead on the Colorado River) and is treated in San Diego only once at a water treatment plant like the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant shown here:

Alvarado Water Treatment Plant next to the dam at Lake Murray

Under the IPR Project, tertiary reclaimed water (which approaches the quality of our raw untreated imported water) would be subjected to the advanced treatment described above. In other words, the IPR Project water would not be very different from what we’re importing now, and may possibly be an improvement.

A previous San Diego IPR water quality study found that “AWT [Advanced Water Treatment] reduced all compounds regulated by state and federal drinking water standards…to below their notification levels” and “Compared to samples from San Diego reservoirs which store untreated imported water, AWT product water was lower or equivalent in concentration levels for nearly all contaminants/parameters measured.”

Indeed, one might wonder why the advanced IPR water treatment isn’t done for all imported water supplies!

In the end, if the process is finally approved for production, the purified reclaimed water blended with imported raw supplies will be stored and aged at the San Vicente Reservoir, where the dam is now being raised in order to more than double its current capacity. The added capacity is primarily to serve as an emergency regional backup in case of disruptions in the imported supply and the supplemental IPR process could help keep it full while reducing our import requirements.

A few months ago, San Vicente Dam's surface was prepared for new concrete that will soon arrive in massive quantities needed to raise the top by another 117 feet

Although the demonstration project was approved by the City Council in 2007, implementation has been very slow, partly because of interference by some councilmembers who are still opposed to the idea. Mayor Sanders originally vetoed the project but was overridden. Just two weeks ago Councilmembers DeMaio and Lightner caused a further delay by temporarily blocking a council vote on a contract to start construction on the necessary treatment facility for the project. Still, politics notwithstanding, the project will go on.

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” — W.H. Auden


Posted in Technology, Videos, Water, Water Purification Demonstration Project | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

Which San Diego politicians really support water recycling?

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 1, 2010

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders just yesterday announced a new recycled water hookup with Canyonside Park for landscaping irrigation (see video of announcement).

In his speech, Mayor Sanders proclaimed “Finding more uses for recycled water is an important way to maximize resources.”

Councilmember Sherri Lightner also spoke, saying “I have always and will continue to support the expansion of recycled water in San Diego as a smart reuse of water and as a water conservation measure.”

Was this really a sign of wholehearted support for water reuse, or was it just lip service?

That item should hardly be making the news. It belatedly brings the City a little closer to compliance with a 1989 City ordinance mandating the widespread use of recycled water. It’s a good, but modest project using only 13 million gallons of recycled water per year.

On the other hand, a few Councilmembers (probably with the Mayor’s secret blessings) actively resist implementation of a water reuse project that could produce an additional 16 million gallons of potable water per day, a project that was approved by the full Council years ago.

Quick history:

  • On October 29, 2007, after considerable debate and public discussion, the City Council voted to approve the Indirect Potable Reuse Demonstration Project.
  • On November 14, 2007, Mayor Sanders vetoed the resolution.
  • On December 3, 2007, the City Council voted to override the Mayor’s veto and directed him to develop a plan to begin the potable reuse demonstration project by July 2008.
  • On November 18, 2008, the City Council approved a temporary water rate increase to fully fund the Demonstration Project.
  • In May 2009, the Public Utilities Department issued a Request for Proposals for Project Management and Public Outreach for the project.
  • On Jan. 26, 2010, the San Diego City Council directed the Mayor to execute “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 summary: the City got so far as to approve the Indirect Potable Reuse Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project (aka Water Purification Demonstration Project), then approved a contract for project management and public outreach, and the next step was to approve a contract to build the facility to treat the water. How did that go?

Two weeks ago, at the June 16 Natural Resources and Culture Committee meeting, the contract to build the facility was blocked from going to the full Council because Councilmembers Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio still had objections to the basic premise of the project and they forced a continuation of the matter saying they needed answers to more questions.

Today, the Natural Resources and Culture Committee held a special followup meeting to address those questions.

Lightner, for all her earlier interest in continuing the matter so that her questions could be answered, didn’t even show up for the meeting. That left DeMaio. Marti Emerald quickly made the motion to recommend council approval (Donna Frye obviously would vote yes). DeMaio didn’t bother asking questions and only reiterated that he remains steadfastly opposed to the project and would not vote for the committee to recommend approval of the contract. So the vote was taken and that’s how the matter will be sent to the Council.

We’re obviously dealing with foot-dragging by disgruntled politicians intent on hindering an already-approved project.

Please, it’s time to move on.


Posted in Environment, Politics, Water, Water Purification Demonstration Project | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s IPR water treatment facility sidetracked by DeMaio and Lightner

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 16, 2010

Councilmembers Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio took advantage of councilmember Marti Emerald’s absence at today’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee meeting and threw a wrench into the gears of San Diego’s Indirect Potable Reuse/Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project (IPR Project).

The IPR Project is a City Council-approved study seeking to determine whether the Indirect Potable Reuse process can be used to give San Diego an additional high-quality and reliable source of drinking water.

Months ago, the City Council approved a contract for project management for the IPR project. The next step in the project was to identify who would construct the advanced water treatment facility required for the project. The San Diego Water Department put that out to bid in February, evaluated the candidates, and in April made a selection.

A contract for the new treatment facility was on the agenda for today’s committee meeting (I wrote a preview about it on Monday). It was on the agenda as a routine informational consent item that would be sent to the City Council for approval. Marsi Steirer, Deputy Director of the Water Department (morphing into Assistant Director of the Public Utilities Department under a reorganization), was on hand to answer questions.

When Donna Frye, chairing, summarized the agenda for the day, Sherri Lightner announced she wanted to pull the item from the consent agenda because she wanted to ask questions. Shortly, she had her chance.

“What’s the difference between this facility and the one they have in Orange County?” she asked. Answer: no real difference, the same technology is used.

“Then why do we need a study if we already have that information from their facility?” Answer: because Orange County is augmenting groundwater supplies while San Diego would be augmenting reservoir water, and because the source water for San Diego’s project is from reclaimed tertiary water while the source for Orange County is from secondary treatment water. Also because of regulatory requirements.

Lightner didn’t seem to care for these answers and said she doesn’t see why we can’t partner with Orange County and have some kind of cooperative venture with them and that she’d like to see more “philosophical” background information on how that might be accomplished.

At this point, Carl DeMaio made a motion…for a continuance. When pressed to say what for, he indicated that he thinks this project needs more examination, and besides, he thought Marti Emerald really should have the opportunity to vote!

Continuing, Frye allowed that the committee would hear the people who had signed up for public comment. Obviously they had planned their comments without suspecting this untoward development, so they had to think on their feet quickly. They all opted to address DeMaio’s motion to suppress (er, continue).

Jill Witkowski and Bruce Reznik from San Diego Coastkeeper, Jim Peugh from the San Diego Audubon Society, Marco Gonzalez from the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Angelika Villagrana from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cary Lowe from the San Diego River Park Foundation, Amy Harris from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, all took turns standing before the committee to plead for them not to use a continuance to impede the project.

Lightner seemed quite annoyed by the comments and at one point indignantly asked the chair, “are they actually commenting on the motion to continue?” To which Frye replied, “It sure seems like it to me. Try listening to their words.” (or something like that). Lightner obviously wasn’t pleased having the public enter the debate on the motion!

The pleas were unheeded, however, and when Frye called the vote, she was alone in voting against a continuance.

So there you have it. Even though the IPR project was vetted and approved by the City Council, DeMaio and Lightner have decided to question the premise of the project just as it’s getting under way, with questions that sound like they’re from someone who is hearing about it for the first time. Further, the stalling technique employed with Marti Emerald conveniently absent seems like immature politics, not the behavior of one with a sincere desire for understanding. Such questions, if genuine, could and should have been asked when the overall project approval was being discussed.

I don’t know if the committee will meet in July; if not, it could be August before the matter can even be sent to the full Council.

I wonder if DeMaio and Lightner will come to understand that this is not a useful way to handle taxpayer time and money. I have a feeling this would not have happened if Marti Emerald had been present.


Posted in Natural Resources and Culture Committee, Politics, Water | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »