By Tracy DeFore
The County Board of Supervisors approved another step Wednesday toward increasing local drinking water supplies for East County residents.
The Board, acting as the Board of Directors for the County Sanitation District, voted to approve $2.35 million for the County’s contribution to final program development costs of the East County Advanced Water Purification Program.
The County’s Sanitation District has worked with the Padre Dam and Helix Water Districts, and the City of El Cajon in recent years to study building the water reuse program. The County’s Sanitation District serves nearly 36,000 residents in the unincorporated area.
The water reuse program would treat wastewater collected by the agencies and purify it to augment drinking water supplies.
As part of the project, Padre Dam’s existing water recycling facility in Santee would be expanded to provide advanced treatment of current East County flows of 15 million gallons of wastewater per day to produce over 11 million gallons of new, reliable potable water supply. Currently, two million gallons of wastewater per day of the 15 million are recycled for reuse at the water recycling facility in Santee, while the rest is diverted to the City of San Diego’s Metro Wastewater System for treatment and disposal in the ocean.
The new program would collect wastewater from El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside, Alpine and Winter Gardens and highly purify it with state-of-the-art technology to produce drinking quality water. The treated water would be blended with imported supplies and delivered to Helix and Padre Dam Water District customers.
The multi-phase project is anticipated to be completed in 2025 and will provide up to 30% of the East County’s drinking water supply.
The project has been in development since 2014. The partners say the facility expansion will ultimately save rate payers money because it will reduce the area’s reliance on the San Diego County Water Authority for imported water supplies and the City of San Diego’s Metro Wastewater System for wastewater services.
The water purification program will also provide a local, sustainable and drought-proof drinking water supply. The funding approved in Wednesday’s vote would help further the development of the purification project.
The agencies involved will explore forming a Joint Powers Authority and then return to the Board later this year with recommendations on how to govern and implement the program.