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Groundbreaking for East County Advanced Water Purification Program

The East County Advanced Water Purification Program broke ground, marking an important milestone for the recycled water project in San Diego County. Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County.

East County Advanced Water Purification Plant Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking for East County Advanced Water Purification Program

The East County Advanced Water Purification Program broke ground, marking an important milestone for the recycled water project in San Diego County.

Scheduled to be complete in 2026, the East County AWP will generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of purified water— meeting approximately 30% of current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents and businesses.

Program representatives, elected officials and water industry leaders gathered at the future site of the treatment facility in Santee to celebrate the East County AWP. The project will create a new, local, sustainable and drought-proof drinking water supply using state-of-the-art technology to purify East San Diego County’s recycled water.

Officials in attendance included representatives from the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority, San Diego County Water Authority, Bureau of Reclamation, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Potable reuse projects

“In 2045, potable reuse projects are going to provide up to 20% of the water that we need here in San Diego County,” said San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl. “This region has been excellent in its innovation and planning for water needs for the region and this project is just another step in that process. I want to congratulate everyone involved in this project in developing another drought-resilient supply for the region.”

Water supply reliability for San Diego County

Collaboration on new recycled water supply

The groundbreaking follows approval of project construction on May 19, 2022, by the East County AWP Joint Powers Authority that owns and operates the Program and is a collaborative partnership between four agencies: Padre Dam, the City of El Cajon, the County of San Diego and Helix Water District. The overall cost for the project is $950 million and estimated to create 2,500 jobs in the region.

The project will use four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.

4-step process-potable reuse-East County AWP

Sustainable source of water

“Today marks an exciting moment for our East San Diego County customers,” said Allen Carlisle, Padre Dam and JPA Administrator CEO/General Manager. “We are now one step closer to creating a local, reliable and sustainable drinking water source that will reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive imported water. The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is a smart investment that provides a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life.”

After the advanced water purification process, the purified water will be blended with water in Lake Jennings and treated again at Helix Water District’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water.

New local supply

“In addition to providing a new local water supply, the Program will eliminate the need to send most of East County’s wastewater to the City of San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it is currently treated and then discharged into the ocean,” said Kyle Swanson, Padre Dam Incoming CEO/General Manager. “The East County Advanced Water Purification Program will benefit not only our customers and the community, but our shared environment too.”

The East County AWP has secured more than $123 million in grant funding and up to $796 million in low interest loans to help finance the project. East County AWP officials anticipate receiving additional state and federal grant funding to help pay for the project.

Local leadership and vision

“As California adapts to an increasingly arid climate, expanding our water supply portfolio with 21st century investments in water recycling, like the East County Advanced Water Purification program is critical,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board. “Thanks to state and federal leadership, we have a generational opportunity to support the affordability and viability of this and other water supply projects throughout the state. Local leadership and vision are what have made this project a reality and helped to show that we can turn climate anxiety into climate action.”

(Editor’s note: The Padre Dam Municipal Water District and the Helix Water District are two of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

California Businesses Face Turf Watering Ban Amid Historic Drought Conditions

The State Water Resources Control Board voted Tuesday to ban watering of non-functional turf at commercial, industrial and institutional properties, the latest in a series of steps to conserve water amid a historic drought.

The ban — which does not include turf at residences or turf used for recreation or community purposes — will be effective once approved by the Office of Administrative Law, which typically takes about 10 days, according to the board. Violations of the ban would be punishable by a fine of up to $500.

San Diego Offers $33M Olive Branch in Pipeline Dispute With East County Water Recycling Project

San Diego’s top brass offered on Thursday to pony up more than $33 million to resolve a hotly disputed pipeline deal between the city and East County concerning two large water recycling projects.

The move comes as the parties inch closer to what could become a protracted legal battle, with serious implications for the East County Advanced Water Purification Project and the city’s massive $5 billion Pure Water sewage recycling venture.

Rainbow Approves Water Main Improvement for Live Oak Park Bridge Project

The County of San Diego will be replacing the Live Oak Park Road bridge, which will impact two Rainbow Municipal Water District water mains. Hazard Construction was given the county contract for the bridge replacement and, on April 26, the Rainbow board approved an agreement with Hazard to add the water main construction to the Lakeside company’s work.

Congressman Levin Introduces Bill to Fund Coastal Protection

San Diego County lagoons and wetlands may get more funding for protection and restoration under the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act, introduced Tuesday by Reps. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, and Brian Mast, R-Fla.

The bill would authorize $60 million per year through 2026 for the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, which distributes money to preserve the “conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, and aesthetic values of estuaries,” Levin stated

East County’s $950M Water Recycling Project Could be in Jeopardy as San Diego Nixes Pipeline Deal

East County officials fear a $950 million sewage recycling project could get flushed down the drain because of a pipeline deal gone awry.

Leaders spearheading the endeavor blame San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria — who signed off on building an eight-mile “brine line” as recently as last year but has since reneged on that commitment.

The pipeline would prevent concentrated waste generated by the East County project’s reverse osmosis filtration system from entering into the city’s own $5 billion Pure Water sewage recycling project now under construction. Instead the byproduct would be routed into the city’s larger wastewater system.

Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir

Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir Moving to Completion

The San Diego County Water Authority Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir project in North San Diego County reached a major milestone in late April when crews poured the concrete roof of the new prestressed concrete water tank. The major construction project, which began in March 2021, will improve drinking water supply reliability for the county.

The project began with the demolition of an abandoned steel tank, and includes construction of an isolation vault and an underground flow control facility, in addition to the new 2.1 million-gallon water tank connected to the Valley Center Pipeline. The project is expected to be completed by November 2022.

Improved flexibility with Hauck Mesa Reservoir

The new Hauck Mesa Storage Reservoir will increase operational flexibility by balancing the flow of treated water between the agency’s first and second aqueducts as well as ensure water deliveries can be maintained even if power supplies are interrupted.

The walls of the new tank are about 60 feet tall, will be stained a forest green color to blend in with the natural landscape, and are made of prestressed, or wire wrapped, concrete. Construction Manager Emma Ward-McNally said that the prestressed technology “will maintain the tank walls in permanent compression, allowing the tank to accommodate seismic events while remaining watertight.”

Next steps for the project include the wire wrapping of the water tank, applying green-tinted shotcrete to the tank walls, installation of mechanical components within the flow control facility, system commissioning, and paving of the project site and access road.

Asset management

Strategic infrastructure improvements by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are part of the regional effort to ensure continued delivery of water to support the region’s $240 billion economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents. As part of the asset management program, it is critical to actively replace and repair the Water Authority’s assets, which include pipes, valves, facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure.

The Water Authority will continue to work closely with the Valley Center community, Valley Center Municipal Water District, and nearby homeowners to minimize short-term construction impacts.

DNA-Based Water Testing System Launched for San Diego Beaches

San Diego County has started using new ocean water-quality testing technology intended to produce faster results and earlier warnings when bacteria reach unhealthy levels.

During a rollout of the DNA-based technology last week, county Board of Supervisors Vice Chairwoman Nora Vargas said the county plans to expand its use of the testing technology, known as droplet digital polymerase chain reaction, or ddPCR, to more than 70 miles of shoreline that the county samples and tests to help protect the public.

New San Diego Ocean Water Testing Much Faster

San Diego County is using new, high-tech tests that will allow officials to test ocean water and find out if that water is safe for swimming, in just one day. County supervisor Nora Vargas said the county is the first local government to get U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval to use the new, sophisticated tests. The switch is the culmination of years of testing.