In an attempt to solve its water crisis, San Diego has explored several alternatives that include sea water desalination, water recycling and Indirect Potable Re-use (IPR). Out of all these, IPR provides the best results.
Desalination may seem like a good idea because the ocean is so vast, but it’s expensive and energy intensive, ranking it low on the sustainability scale.
Water recycling, or “purple pipe” systems, cleans waste water enough so that we can spray it on our lawns and golf courses. The non-potable water is not meant for human consumption or to replenish any of our water sources and actually encourages water-hogging lawns and golf courses.
IPR on the other hand, takes wastewater, filters it and leaves it extremely clean to be re-introduced into a water source. To learn more, I decided to tour the Orange County (OC) Groundwater Replenishment System and the North City Water Reclamation Plant.
The OC Groundwater Replenishment System has been operating for several years now. This facility has been a model not only for San Diego, but for other facilities worldwide. Here, water is put through a very simple filtration system that takes in wastewater, cleans it and it exposes it to ultraviolet rays to make sure all pollutants are removed. The water, clean as whistle, is then pumped into the Orange County groundwater basin. At the end of the tour, I was given the opportunity to taste the water. A little skeptical at first, I decided to taste it. The water was the best water I had ever tasted! It was so fresh and soft that I wished I had been given the opportunity to take some it home!
Anxious to see what San Diego was up to, I took a tour of the North City Water Reclamation Plant. San Diego is currently in its third month of its Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Project. The filtration process is the same as that of the OC facility, giving the same water quality results. San Diego is assessing the possibility of using IPR water to augment the San Vicente water reservoir.
IPR works! This is not a case of toilet to tap or dirty water aimed only for low income communities. The water would be the same for everyone. IPR is a great way to replenish our water levels without having to import more water. Many question the use of wastewater, but the process is extremely clean and by re-introducing it into a groundwater basin or reservoir, it allows it to clean itself even more!
If you have doubts, don’t hesitate to tour these facilities. They’re open to the public and welcome public input. We cannot continue to claim that we do not have a water crisis. We must act to solve our water crisis and a great way to do so is to support IPR.