GrokSurf's San Diego

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

Posts Tagged ‘Wastewater’

Two miscellaneous San Diego water notes

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 14, 2010

The San Diego Metro Wastewater Joint Powers Authority Technical Advisory Committee agenda for September 15 is now available…one of the attachments has a response from the Public Utilities Department regarding comments submitted in July by the JPA about the City’s Recycled Water Study. An interesting comment in that document suggested that the City’s IPR Project (Water Purification Demonstration Project) consider using an advanced treatment facility at Padre Dam Water Reclamation Plant in Santee if IPR is approved for operations, since that facility is located much closer to San Vicente Reservoir than the North City Water Reclamation Plant and could reduce the transport distance.

The Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) Environmental and Technical Subcommittee met September 13. During an update on recent water main breaks and sewage spills, committee members observed that in the heat of reporting, the media sometimes overlooks important details without issuing updates. Examples: during a recent water main break in Pacific Beach, initial reports that there had been cross-contamination with sewer lines were in error; a water main break on Front Street downtown was actually caused by a private contractor who failed to observe a water main marker and drilled into the pipeline and the city will recover all repair costs (including for lost water) from the contractor; the recent SDSU water main break did not involve any city-owned or maintained pipelines at all.

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Navajo Community: Lake Murray trunk sewer project getting under way

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 18, 2010

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California Ocean Wastewater Discharge Report

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 21, 2010


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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.


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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.

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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 »