Member Spotlight – February 2018

  • by Will Holbert
  • Feb 16, 2018
  • Newsletters

Advanced Water Purification East County Makes Progress in ACWA Region 10

The predecessors of today’s Padre Dam Municipal Water District pioneered modern water recycling during the late 1950s. Back then, what was the Santee County Water District received worldwide attention for a treatment process used to create a chain of seven recycled water lakes. Today, that pioneering spirit flows through the East County Advanced Water Purification Program, where Padre Dam MWD and its partner agencies are deploying state-of-the-art wastewater treatment technology.

Eventually, they expect to meet up to 30% of current drinking demands in East County, San Diego — cutting their current 100% reliance on imported water from the Sacramento and Colorado rivers. The seven bodies of water comprising the Santee Lakes remain a valuable recreation destination, with 300 campsites attracting more than 750,000 visitors a year. The lakes generate enough revenue to make the recreational operation financially independent. A generation later, the goal is more water independence. Getting close to the 30% benchmark drives progress on the East County Advanced Water Purification Program.

A tour at the Advanced Water Purification Program’s demonstration facility.

The program is a partnership between Padre Dam, Helix Water District, the County of San Diego and the City of El Cajon. Padre Dam is currently the lead agency. If the project stays on schedule, work will proceed through two phases until 2025, the target year for starting operations and beginning to supply East County with locally produced, sustainable, drought-proof drinking water.

For now, the project’s embryonic operation treats water at a demonstration facility. This pilot program produces approximately 100,000 gallons of purified water a day. This gives project managers an ongoing way to test the system’s capabilities and check water quality against the public health objectives necessary to earn approval from the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water. At the test facility, recycled water undergoes a four-step process that starts with free chlorine disinfection, continues to membrane filtration, and then advances to a reverse osmosis stage before advanced oxidation. From there the final advanced oxidation process employs ultraviolent light and hydrogen peroxide to destroy any remaining organic compounds.

The Advanced Water Purification East County Demonstration Project was funded by a Proposition 50 grant and did not impact water rates.

“Through this process we can get 99.99% disinfection of virus in a matter of minutes,” said Al Lau, director of engineering for the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, during an interview with San Diego’s NBC 7.

Lead Recycled Water Operator Ryan Hughes pours a glass of purified water at the demonstration facility.

The project has already taken a couple interesting and newsworthy turns. During early 2017, Southern California brewer Ballast Point created a batch of its beer using purified water from the demonstration facility and served it at a WateReuse Conference. WateReuse also recognized the East County Advanced Water Purification Program as its 2017 Agency/Program of the Year. Last November, Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography deployed a remote-controlled submarine in Lake Jennings. This gave project partner Helix Water valuable data on how purified water from a proposed purification facility interacts with lake water. By 2023, Padre Dam expects to build a pipeline from its Advanced Water Purification System that will deliver water to Lake Jennings. The lake will be one of the environmental buffers for the East County AWP Program. Additionally, the program could also include injecting water into a groundwater basin and add natural filtration to the treatment process.

“Water sustainability depends on innovative stewardship of this increasingly finite resource. At Padre Dam, from our initial water recycling project in the 1960s to today’s Advanced Water Purification Program, recycling water and using our resources wisely has become a generational commitment,” said Allen Carlisle, General Manager/CEO. “Through hard work with our partner agencies, the East County Advanced Water Purification Program will fulfill that commitment well into this century.”


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