County supervisor looking to use recycled water in Rancho Santa Fe

Supervisor wants recycled water for landscaping

SAN DIEGO - One county supervisor is pushing for an affluent community to do more to save the world's most precious resource: water.

Supervisor Dave Roberts says too much water is going to waste.

"If we don't solve our water usage, all the other decisions we make really don't have any meaning because you have to have water to survive," he said.

Roberts wants to use recycled water for landscaping at homes, specifically in Rancho Santa Fe, which has a high usage of urban water.

The San Elijo Joint Powers Authority sells to four different water districts, including the Santa Fe Irrigation District that serves the Rancho Santa Fe community. The San Elijo Wastewater Reclamation Facility makes and sells recycled water mostly to businesses. However, policies prohibit the facility from selling to individual homes.

One of the issues is health concerns. Health officials worry about cross-connection between recycled water and potable – or drinking – water.

"We do want to be able to serve residential areas, but we do need to make sure first the safety of our customers and then also to ensure there is somebody that is trained to make sure there's no cross connections on the property," said Jennifer Parks, a spokeswoman for the Santa Fe Irrigation District.

Parks says the rules come from the health department. Currently, the district does bring recycled water to Solana Beach to serve areas like golf courses.

Cross-connection has happened before.

In 2011, two Chula Vista women won a more than $1 million lawsuit when the recycled water and drinking water pipes were mixed up at their business. They got sick and eventually were forced to close.

Parks says money and location is also a challenge.

"Because recycled water needs to be in its own pipe, we do have to put new pipes in the ground," Parks said. "That does cost."

There is a master plan looking at bringing recycled water to Rancho Santa Fe, but it is an ongoing discussion with the board of directors, according to Parks.

Parks said seventy percent of water in the district is imported, with thirty percent coming locally.

Roberts argues the technology is there and some of the water produced locally is going to waste. Roberts said the San Elijo facility does not have enough customers so they "have to pump some of this clean recycled water out into the ocean."

"That is foolish in my mind," Roberts said.

San Elijo Joint Powers Authority General Manager Michael Thornton says there is currently an effort to coordinate water resources in the North County, called the North San Diego County Regional Water Project.

Thornton says using recycled water is a "win-win."

Roberts' office is working on a proposal to bring recycled water to Rancho Santa Fe but it still in the early stages.

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