The Environmental Quality Report Card series examines environmental stewardship of San Diego Councilmembers and the Mayor. The series looks at history of past reports, shows the voting record of individual Councilmembers, explains voting methodology and examines the environmental issues the Councilmembers voted on.
Have you seen the 2010 Environmental Quality Report Card for the City of San Diego? As you can see, one of the success stories last year was the Council’s approach to Indirect Potable Reuse. This process of water purification recycles wastewater into water so clean that it can augment our reservoirs and help increase our drinking water supplies.
Once the third rail of San Diego politics, water purification became much more palatable at City Hall due to continuing periods of drought and budget shortfalls. The purification process gives us a local source of water at a time when our imported sources are literally drying up. A decade ago the process was tagged with the misnomer toilet-to-tap, and written off as politically unpopular. But science ultimately convinced a majority of council members to revisit reuse.
There were two important votes in San Diego last year on IPR. The first, in January, authorized a contract for public outreach and project management of a demonstration project for advanced water purification. It passed with five councilmember votes and a positive staff report from the Mayor. The second vote in July actually passed with six votes, authorizing the contract to design and build the demonstration-scale facility. The test plant will operate at the North City Water Reclamation Plant, where the City will gather data to plan a permanent full-scale project.
The (not-so) strange part? Opposition to last year’s votes was almost non-existent. An unprecedented coalition of more than twenty groups supporting water purification was one reason, public outreach and education was another. The Union-Tribune’s editorial support this year may have been belated, but it gave one more boost to council members who know that caring about water quality is the right thing in popular and unpopular times. And for those that did, the Environmental Quality Report Card took note.