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Drought Continues As San Diego Looks At Reusable Water

Evening Edition

Above: Halla Razak, the department director of the San Diego Public Utilities Department, and Shawn Dewane, the board president of the Orange County Water District, talk about options for reusable water.

Aired 3/25/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Halla Razak, Department Director of San Diego Public Utilities Department

Matt O'Malley, San Diego Coastkeeper

Shawn Dewane, Board President, Orange County Water District


San Diego is standing at a crossroads about what to do with its wastewater. That's the message a San Diego City Council committee will hear from the public utilities department this week. The test project to recycle waste water, once known as "toilet-to-tap," has been renamed Pure Water San Diego.

City water officials say the tests have been a success and now the project is ready to be fully developed as a new source of water for San Diego. It's also being presented as a less costly alternative to building a secondary sewage treatment facility at Point Loma. But whether the federal government will agree is an open question.

Orange County Water District has a successful system in place to treat wastewater for potable use. We'll find out how they got the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) up and running. It now provides 70 million gallons of clean drinking water daily.


Avatar for user 'Lance'

Lance | March 25, 2014 at 11:52 a.m. ― 1 year ago

Can we really afford to wait 21 YEARS to implement a water recycling program? I'm also curious what happened to that wastewater treatment facility in Mission Valley that made extensive use of hyacinth plants. Seemed like it was doing great things at the time...

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Avatar for user 'TPartyHero'

TPartyHero | March 25, 2014 at 12:10 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Oh no the sky is falling, these libs are going to make us drink out of the toilet
it's just a little weather fluctuation

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 25, 2014 at 1:05 p.m. ― 1 year ago

TPartyHero: "going to make us drink out of the toilet"
Do you realize that ALL water has been recycled at some point ?

Quit being ignorant.

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Avatar for user 'DonWood'

DonWood | March 25, 2014 at 3:34 p.m. ― 1 year ago

The San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District have been quietly opposing this technology, since it would mean that the city of San Diego would produce its own water supply and could buy less from them. They only want water they can import and sell, just like SDG&E only likes electricity it can import and sell to ratepayers.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 25, 2014 at 4:15 p.m. ― 1 year ago

The idea of drinking poo water is off-putting at first, but after a while you realize it's just water.

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Avatar for user 'fairoaks'

fairoaks | March 25, 2014 at 9:23 p.m. ― 1 year ago

The water coming out of the plant will be so clean they actually have to put minerals back in it. So, no point in spending a lot money to build a pipeline to San Vicente Reservoir to mix it in with raw water, just to clean it all again later. Put that water right back into the potable supply. That is direct potable reuse and that is what we should be doing. The science and technology are sound.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 26, 2014 at 8:42 a.m. ― 1 year ago

I would like a waste recycler in my house. Maybe I can use a Brita water filter...

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Avatar for user 'Ken Weinberg'

Ken Weinberg | March 26, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. ― 1 year ago

The San Diego County Water Authority supports a wide range of local water resource development efforts by its member agencies, including the city of San Diego’s potable reuse project. The Water Authority has a long history of advancing potable reuse in San Diego County, and it worked closely with the city of San Diego and state health officials in the mid- and late-1990s by taking the lead in developing and gaining initial regulatory support for the concept that the city is advancing today.

In the last year, the Water Authority led the effort to work with legislators, regulators and water agencies such as the city of San Diego, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Helix Water District, the city of Escondido and others to promote and ultimately pass the legislation necessary to expedite developing uniform state-wide criteria to actually move forward on potable reuse in San Diego County and the rest of California.

The Water Authority has always recognized that the beneficial reuse of wastewater in general, and the city’s potable reuse project in particular, has a large potential to help our region further diversify its water supply portfolio. The Water Authority’s long-range plans acknowledge the city’s efforts to complete a potable reuse project, which if successful, will minimize the need for additional water supply development in the region.

Ken Weinberg
Director of Waer Resources
San Diego County Water Authority

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 26, 2014 at 3:34 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Singapore has been using toilet-to-tap for a long time, I drink the tap water out there no problem!

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Avatar for user 'Ken Weinberg'

Ken Weinberg | March 26, 2014 at 4:50 p.m. ― 1 year ago

Lance, the Water Hyacinth or Aquaculture Plant located in Mission Valley was the first venture into potable reuse in San Diego County and I think dated back to the 1970s. It used water hyacinths to try and clean the water up to drinking water standards. The Mission Valley plant was decommissioned in the mid to late 1990's and replaced with a new and larger plant in Rancho Bernardo that used both the Water Hyacinths to recycle water and as pretreatment for the reverse osmosis process, that was also constructed at the RB site. That plant was also decommissioned in the early to mid 2000s. The use of hyacinths proved too land intensive for water recycling in San Diego where property is so valuable and other more effective pre treatment technologies became available for potable reuse.


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Avatar for user 'Lance'

Lance | June 24, 2014 at 10:59 a.m. ― 9 months, 1 week ago

Thanks, Ken!

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