By: O.C. Supervisor Pat Bates
My office recently hosted the Orange County Coastal Coalition, where guest speakers highlighted three new initiatives on our supply of high quality water. All three initiatives rely on the same principle: increasing the locally produced supply of water to increase reliability of sufficient water into the future.
Currently, about 50 percent of the water we use here in Orange County is imported from northern California or the Colorado River. As we heard at our July Coastal Coalition meeting, serious problems plague California’s Delta, the origination point of water that’s exported to southern California.
First, the fragile state of the California Delta’s ecosystem has reduced the amount of water being exported to southern California over the past several years. Likewise, the fragile state of levies and infrastructure that move water from the Delta out to other areas could jeopardize exports even more drastically in future years. Drought and competition over water from other western states means uncertainty for water quantities from the Colorado River as well.
Our first presentation focused on a new local source of drinking water being developed in Huntington Beach by Poseidon Resources. Brian Lochrie from Communications Lab shared details of a new facility that will extract seawater and treat it using sophisticated technology.
The plant will increase the amount of water we currently have in Orange County to serve residents and businesses by 8%. It will be located adjacent to the electrical generating system at Pacific Coast Highway and Newland Streets. Seawater will be accessed through the same pipeline the generating system has used for many years. 56,000 acre-feet will be available for use once the plant is up and operational – the equivalent amount of water to 56,000 acres of land covered by water 12 inches deep.
The last remaining approval needed before construction can begin is anticipated to be issued in November by the California Coastal Commission.
Darcy Burke from the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) presented on a second desalination project proposed to be built at Doheny Beach in Dana Point.
MWDOC and its five project partners – Laguna Beach County Water District, Moulton Niguel Water District, City of San Clemente, City of San Juan Capistrano, and South Coast Water District – conducted a Water Reliability Study that recommended an ocean desalination project at this location due to the geology, availability of land, existing outfall for brine disposal, and proximity to existing water pipelines. These factors make it conducive to utilizing environmentally sensitive and sustainable desalination technology that utilizes a slant well intake.
With an estimated completion date of 2018, the Doheny Desalination facility could supply 15 million gallons a day of drought-proof local drinking water, which would be about 25% of the participating agencies’ potable water demand. Areas of South County range between 80% and 100% reliance on imported water supplies from northern California and the Colorado River, making new supplies even more important in South County than for Orange County as a whole.
Last but not least, John Kennedy from Orange County Water District provided an update on the Groundwater Replenishment System. Also known as GWRS, the system takes highly treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifies it using a three-step advanced treatment process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide.
The process produces high-quality water that exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards. Operational since January 2008, this state-of-the-art water purification project can produce up to 70 million gallons of high quality water every day. This is enough water to meet the needs of nearly 600,000 residents in north and central Orange County.
The design and construction of the GWRS was a project jointly-funded by the Orange County Water District (OCWD) and the Orange County Sanitation District. These two public agencies have worked together for more than 30 years. They are leading the way in water recycling and providing a locally-controlled, drought-proof and reliable supply of high-quality water in an environmentally sensitive and economical manner.
Currently, OCWD is expanding the Groundwater Replenishment System. The $142.7 million project will create an additional 30 million gallons per day of new water supplies to serve north and central Orange County, bringing the total production of the GWRS to 103,000 acre feet per year (AFY), enough water for 850,000 people. Construction is estimated to be completed by 2015.
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