San Diego City Council considers $3B plan to recycle wastewater into drinking water

Posted at 7:15 AM, Oct 25, 2016

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to certify an environmental impact report for the city's nearly $3 billion plan to recycle wastewater into drinking water, and approved the plan itself.

Supporters of the so-called "Pure Water San Diego" program say it will provide residents and businesses with a stable, local supply of potable water that won't be affected by drought or the uncertainties of future water imports.

The product will be purified and mixed with water from traditional sources before it's delivered to customers.

A city staff report said city officials aim to begin delivering 30 million gallons of recycled water a day within five years.

By the time Pure Water is fully implemented in about two decades, it will create 83 million gallons of drinking water per day. That's 33 million gallons more than the output of the desalination plant that opened last year in Carlsbad.

Councilman David Alvarez, who heads the panel's Environment Committee, said "sustainability, an ability to control our own destiny a little bit better, to be less harmful and impactful on the environment through discharge -- for many reasons -- this program makes sense."

The project will require the construction of water reclamation facilities, the creation of pipelines to deliver the water to area reservoirs and a way to divert runoff to those new plants, according to a staff report.

Diverting the runoff into recycling plants will have the side benefit of reducing discharges from the aging Point Loma Water Treatment Plant, staff said.

Staffers found 31 potential environmental impacts but said all could be mitigated.

Separately, the council approved two deals related to the Pure Water Program.

One added $16.4 million to a contract with Montgomery Watson Harza Americas Inc. for engineering services on the Pure Water program, bringing the total authorization to $46.4 million. The other was a five-year, $17.2 million deal with CH2M Hill Engineers Inc. to perform design and construction support services for the North City Water Reclamation Plant Expansion and the "Influent Conveyance project" for the program.