To Contend with Drought Conditions, Three North County Government Agencies Collaborate to Create New Water Supply

On July 14, final agency approval was granted for an agreement between San Elijo Joint Powers Authority (SEJPA) and Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD) to expand recycled water infrastructure and service to irrigation customers in the Village Park neighborhood of Encinitas.

As a result of the agreement, new infrastructure will be built to store and distribute recycled water, which is produced locally at the San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, and will be served to customers in Village Park. Locally produced recycled water provides special value to OMWD as it lessens its dependence on imported water supplies and reduces its per capita potable water use as mandated by Senate Bill X7-7 (2009). San Dieguito Water District (SDWD), a long-standing partner of SEJPA’s recycled water utility, benefits from this project as well. As part of the project, OMWD will convert a potable water reservoir to recycled water. SDWD will be able to rely on this recycled water storage to supply fire hydrants at the San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility, thereby avoiding a planned capital improvement project that would have otherwise cost approximately $450,000. The three agencies worked collaboratively to develop the project that effectively leverages capital investments and the use of existing infrastructure to create the greatest value for the community.

San Diego County relies heavily on water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River to meet its potable water needs. Diversifying regional water supplies is critical to meeting current and future water demands. Recycled water is a safe and sustainable resource that reduces demands on increasingly scarce imported water supplies and allows customers using it to irrigate even during times of drought.

OMWD currently delivers approximately 6 acre-feet (nearly two million gallons) of recycled water each day, meeting over 12 percent of its total water demands. In early 2015, OMWD plans to begin construction on facilities to bring recycled water service to Village Park. Upon completion, the project will offset up to 350 acre-feet (approximately 114 million gallons) per year.

Bob Topolovac, OMWD Board Director, stated: “We’re discharging a good deal of treated wastewater out to the ocean because the infrastructure doesn’t exist to deliver it to irrigation customers that can use it. Rather than just dispose of these flows, we’re taking advantage of a locally produced resource to help navigate dry conditions in our semi-arid region.”

Under the terms of the agreement, OMWD will purchase at least 60 acre-feet per year (nearly 20 million gallons) of recycled water from SEJPA beginning in Fiscal Year 2017, with minimum annual purchases to reach 160 acre-feet (over 52 million gallons) by 2021. Ultimately, the anticipated purchases may total up to 300 acre-feet (98 million gallons) to meet Village Park demands. The recycled water will be conveyed via an existing distribution system from SEJPA’s San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility to its existing Oakcrest Reservoir. A new pipeline will be installed to connect Oakcrest Reservoir to OMWD’s Wiegand Reservoir. Wiegand Reservoir will be converted to recycled water storage from its current use as potable water storage. From Wiegand Reservoir, recycled water will then be distributed to greenbelts, schools, HOA-maintained common areas, and the golf course in Village Park. The project also benefits SDWD and its customers by increasing water storage in addition to offering operational flexibility derived from linking the two recycled water distribution systems.

The San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility can produce nearly 3,360 acre-feet (1.1 billion gallons) per year of high-quality, tertiary-treated recycled water. It currently produces approximately 1,400 acre-feet (456 million gallons) per year, which is distributed to customers in the OMWD, SDWD, Santa Fe Irrigation District, and City of Del Mar service areas. The remaining capacity allows for service to future recycled water customers.

Mark Muir, Encinitas City Council Member, SDWD Board Member, and SEJPA Chairperson, stated: “This agreement benefits all those involved. OMWD will be able to utilize a new source of water, further diversifying the district’s water supply sources. Meanwhile, San Elijo Joint Powers Authority will enjoy a strengthened relationship with a critical partner, along with additional financial resources associated with increased recycled water sales that improve our ability to serve customers.”

Teresa Barth, Encinitas City Council Member and Board Member for both SDWD and SEJPA, stated: “Recycled water is good for our customers, the community, and the environment. This agreement is a critical step forward in the effort to create a more robust and sustainable water supply for Encinitas residents, which provides both short- and long-term benefits.”

The cooperative effort between the agencies is an element of the North San Diego County Regional Recycled Water Project. The project is a comprehensive partnership of ten North County water and wastewater agencies to match areas with high demand for recycled water with existing facilities that can produce enough recycled water to meet that demand.

Upon completion, the North San Diego County Regional Recycled Water Project will add as much as 72 million gallons per day of recycled water to North County’s water supply portfolio. The project has been awarded $5 million in state grant funds to date, and representatives of participating agencies are traveling to Washington, DC on July 15 with the aim of securing up to $50 million in federal funds that may potentially be applied to the costs of construction.

Via a separate agreement, OMWD currently distributes at least 25 acre-feet of recycled water procured from SEJPA each year to its recycled water customers in Encinitas and Carlsbad via a pipeline interconnection at Leucadia Boulevard.