San Diego poised to become leader in potable water recycling
SAN DIEGO, November 18, 2014 – At a 2:00 p.m. meeting today, the San Diego City Council will vote on two items that would allow the City to pursue a 20-year potable reuse program designed to add a safe, reliable and drought-proof local drinking water source to the region’s water supply portfolio, which currently relies heavily on water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River Basin. A yes vote would position San Diego to become a regional and national leader in potable water recycling.
Under consideration is whether the city will move forward with a new strategy and direction for its wastewater system, including the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and outfall, and transition efforts to large-scale potable water recycling. In addition, the City Council vote would ratify a cooperative agreement with environmental groups laying out steps to achieve both the significant reduction in discharges of treated sewage to the ocean, as well as the production of at least 83 million gallons per day of drinking water by 2035, enough to meet about 40% of the City of San Diego’s current use. The environmental groups who pushed for and negotiated the agreement include the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter and the San Diego Audubon Society.
“This vote represents a critical step towards solving San Diego County’s water supply issues, and forms the basis of a new paradigm for water treatment and reuse in arid regions throughout the U.S. and Southern California”, said Marco Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation who has worked on the issue for nearly two decades. “Our agreement is the product of many years and countless hours conceptualizing a plan for better coastal protection while also creating a drought-proof local drinking water supply. We’re quite proud to have made it this far, and hope the City will vote to now take the program forward to completion.”
Since the late 1990’s, environmental groups have championed large-scale potable wastewater recycling as a win-win approach to solving the problem of continued sub-standard ocean discharges of treated wastewater and the need for a drought-proof source of locally-controlled water for the San Diego region. Their efforts led to two recycled water feasibility studies and a highly successful demonstration project, the results of which positioned the city to take the action being considered today.
“A vote for the Pure Water Agreement, more than a decade in the making, will ensure greater protection of our marine and coastal resources, said Roger Kube, Chair of Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapter. “This agreement will significantly reduce the outflow of treated wastewater in our ocean, while providing a local, reliable water source for the City of San Diego. We’re excited about this agreement, it marks the start of innovative and resourceful water management strategies for a sustainable future.”
Jim Peugh of San Diego Audubon echoed his sentiments, stating, “Council approval will be a huge step in a process that will result in major and lasting environmental, liveability and economic benefits. It is a win-win solution for our region.”
“This solution is consistent with the Clean Water Act’s design to have NPDES permits live up to the “discharge elimination” part of that acronym, by reducing discharges to the ocean while providing a local drought-proof water source that is both less energy intense and less environmentally harmful than other alternatives like desalination,” said Matt O’Malley, Waterkeeper for San Diego Coastkeeper.
The City Council vote is expected to take place at Council Chambers, 200 C Street San Diego, today, November 18, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
For more information about wastewater recycling and the Pure Water program, please visit www.sandiego.gov/water/purewater.
COASTAL ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) is a nonprofit environmental organization founded by surfers in North San Diego County and active throughout California’s coastal communities. CERF was established to aggressively advocate, including through litigation, for the protection and enhancement of coastal natural resources and the quality of life for coastal residents.
SAN DIEGO AUDUBON SOCIETY: The mission of the San Diego Audubon Society (SDAS) is to foster the protection and appreciation of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, through education and study and advocate for a cleaner, healthier environment. http://www.sandiegoaudubon.org
SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER: Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. Visit us online at https://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.
SURFRIDER FOUNDATION, SAN DIEGO COUNTY CHAPTER: The Surfrider Foundation is a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. http://sandiego.surfrider.org/