GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Posts Tagged ‘Repurified water’

Framework for informed planning decisions regarding indirect potable reuse and dual pipe systems

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 16, 2010

A Request For Proposals (RFP) recently issued may be of interest to anyone following San Diego’s Indirect Potable Reuse Study. The project is sponsored by the WateReuse Foundation as part of the Foundation’s Solicited Research Program. The Bureau of Reclamation is a funding partner for the project.

“The project objective is to develop a tool to help enable utilities to make an informed and sustainable decision regarding their investment into reuse options at the project, city, or regional level. Specifically, this tool will address issues, advantages, and obstacles in the implementation of an Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) project, dual pipe reuse system with or without point of use treatment, or combinations therein to enable utilities to objectively plan projects against triple bottom line objectives. This will be accomplished by creating a planning framework, such as a decision tree matrix, that considers all aspects — social and legal, economic, and environmental — of IPR and dual pipe reclaimed water distribution systems that can include point of use treatment requirements.”

Click here to see the complete RFP.


Posted in Indirect potable reuse, Water | 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 »