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East County Advanced Water Purification Joint Powers Authority JPA Logo

East County Water Supply Project Progresses Forward with Approval of Progressive Design‐Build Agreements

October 1, 2020 – A new water supply for East San Diego County is one step closer to becoming a reality today with the approval of two major Progressive Design Build Agreements for Packages 1 and 2 for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project (East County AWP). Approval of the agreements authorizes the Phase 1 work which includes key design and pre‐construction elements. Phase 1 work for both packages has been approved at a not‐to‐exceed amount of approximately $19.6 million.

San Diego Local Water Supply Projects Get Big Funding Boost

Two major water projects in San Diego County this week received a major financial boost to enhance the region’s water supply. The East County Advanced Water Purification Project was approved for up to $91.8 million and a project in the City of Escondido was approved for up to $23.4 million.

East County AWP-Water Supply Projects-Water Recycling

San Diego Local Water Supply Projects Get Big Funding Boost

Two major water projects in San Diego County this week received a major financial boost to enhance the region’s water supply. The East County Advanced Water Purification Project was approved for up to $91.8 million and a project in the City of Escondido was approved for up to $23.4 million.

The San Diego County Water Authority has helped secure nearly $470 million for local supply projects in the past several months in collaboration with member agencies, including the total of $115 million for the East County and City of Escondido projects. Both projects will increase local water supply reliability and reduce future demands on imported water supplies.

Collaboration on water supply projects

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Board of Directors approved entering into funding agreements from its Local Resources Program for both projects. The Water Authority and its member agencies are able to participate in the Local Resources Program after a final court ruling found MWD had illegally barred the Water Authority from receiving money from MWD’s local water supply program, even though the Water Authority was forced to pay for it.

“Kudos to our member agencies for their strong applications and to MWD’s Board of Directors for approving them,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “It is an affirmation of our ongoing efforts to collaborate with MWD and to address shared challenges.”

Potable reuse project in East San Diego County

The East County AWP will be one of the first potable reuse projects in California to use new reservoir augmentation regulations. The program will meet up to 30% of East County’s drinking water demands, almost 13,000 acre-feet of water per year, and eliminate the discharge of 15 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

The AWP uses four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality. After treatment, purified water will be blended with water in Lake Jennings and treated again at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water.

This program is a collaborative partnership between Padre Dam Municipal Water District, the County of San Diego, the City of El Cajon and Helix Water District.

Advanced water recycling in Escondido

The Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility in Escondido would provide up to 3,280 acre-feet per year of advanced treated recycled water to irrigate farms.

The project includes the construction of an advanced recycled water treatment facility with microfiltration and reverse osmosis, new pipelines, and a storage and blending tank to convey water for agricultural irrigation. Source water for the project is treated recycled water from the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility. Escondido will own and operate the project and plans to deliver water by 2023.

Regional water supply projects reduce reliance on imported water

In the past several months, the Water Authority has helped member agencies secure three other Local Resources Program agreements to fund water supply projects that increase local supply and reduce reliance on imported water. Those projects are:

  • $23.6 million for the Fallbrook Public Utilities District’s Fallbrook Groundwater Desalter Project
  • $42.7 million for the City of Oceanside Pure Water & Recycled Water Expansion Phase I Project
  • $285.6 million for the City of San Diego’s Pure Water North City Project
San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Good News: Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Approved for Local Water Projects

I’m pleased to share some good news for our region. You will recall the Water Authority was recently awarded $15 million in state grants for several water supply projects throughout the county. Earlier this week, we also secured approval of more than $115 million for local water supply projects in San Diego County through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. That brings the total to nearly $500 million since we successfully challenged in court MWD’s imposition of an illegal contract clause barring our region’s participation in MWD’s funding program. Unlike state grants, MWD’s program is funded by its member agencies, including the Water Authority, in the water rates and charges we pay to MWD.

Kudos to our member agencies for their strong applications and to MWD’s Board of Directors for approving them. It is an affirmation of our ongoing efforts to collaborate with MWD and to address shared challenges.

Local water projects, along with the Water Authority regional supplies, are key components of our region’s long-term supply reliability strategy. A few months ago, we worked with Fallbrook Public Utility District, the City of San Diego and the City of Oceanside to secure MWD program funding for their projects.

The two most recent successes are:

  • Up to $91.8 million was awarded to the East County Advanced Water Treatment Plant. It will meet up to 30% of East County’s drinking water demands (approx. 13,000 acre-feet of water per year) and eliminate the discharge of 15 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.
  • Up to $23.4 million was awarded to the Membrane Filtration Reverse Osmosis Facility in the City of Escondido, which will provide up to 3,280 acre-feet per year of advanced treated recycled water to irrigate farmland.

Now that San Diego County agencies can compete for – and win – Local Resources Program funding, the Water Authority is taking actions in court to voluntarily dismiss certain related legal claims against MWD. We hope to soon have prompt resolution of our remaining litigation issues, and to work with the other MWD member agencies to create a strategic plan, a financing plan and a rate structure that are fair to ratepayers across Southern California.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.
Helix Water District's R.M Levy Water Treatment Plant

Water Recycling Project to Expand San Diego Region’s Local Supply

A water recycling project that will purify treated wastewater into drinking water for East San Diego County is moving toward its completion date after the Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized the signing of water purchase agreements.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Project is a collaborative, regional effort to diversify the district’s water portfolio and provide a drought-proof supply. The  water reuse project will further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The Helix Water District Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project at a special meeting on May 27.

Water recycling project ‘investment in water supply reliability’

The $681 million project, led by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, will recycle daily wastewater flows from Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Winter Gardens and Alpine. Treated water will undergo membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

The purified water will be piped into Helix’s Lake Jennings before undergoing additional processing at the district’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant and then distributed as safe, clean drinking water.

“I’m looking forward to the development of this project and I believe it’s an investment that strengthens our district’s water supply reliability and security,” said Helix Water District Board President Mark Gracyk. “This is a great example of what can be accomplished by working with our neighboring agencies.”

Water reuse will reduce dependence on imported water

East County AWP project water will reduce east San Diego County’s dependence on imported water by almost 30% once full operations begin in 2026. The project will create a local supply for the East County at about the same cost as what Helix pays now for imported water, according to the Helix Water District.

San Diego County water agencies, including Helix, Padre Dam, and the cities of San Diego and Oceanside, are developing or expanding water recycling projects. Diversifying local supply sources remains a priority for the San Diego County Water Authority. Imported sources, including water from the Colorado River and State Water Project, can be cutback during times of drought.

“The project was conceived by JPA members as a way to reduce rising wastewater costs for their customers,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “For Helix to participate, the project had to make financial sense for our ratepayers as well. By expanding our local supply, the East County AWP project water will help ensure that we are better able to navigate future droughts.”

The 30-year purchase agreements establish the cost and quantity of water that Helix will purchase from the East County AWP JPA under the proposed project.

Agency collaboration on sustainability

East County Advanced Water Purification Project-Visitor Center rendering-June 2020-Helix

An artist’s rendering of the new East County Advanced Water Purification Facility. The water recycling project is a partnership between Padre Dam MWD, Helix Water District, San Diego County and the City of El Cajon Graphic: Courtesy Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Helix and the JPA members – Padre Dam Municipal Water District, San Diego County Sanitation District and the City of El Cajon – have been working together to evaluate the ECAWP plan since 2014. Each JPA member has until 2021 to make a final decision on the feasibility of the project and participation.

Helix has invested $850,000 and significant board and staff resources to study the feasibility of the project, including a tracer study with Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn how water moves and mixes in Lake Jennings.

“We are committed to exploring sustainable projects that benefit our customers,” said Gracyk. “The ECAWP project will be a great complement to our other ongoing investments in regional water supply projects, such as the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, to ensure we have enough water to meet demand.”