Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach water district approves study on potentially new, drought-proof water supply


The Santa Fe Irrigation District’s Board of Directors approved launching a concept study to evaluate using Advanced Water Purification techniques to take recycled wastewater to an extremely high level of purification so that it could potentially be used for potable water. The study will identify and evaluate opportunities and challenges associated with the development of this drought-proof, local water supply.

The $120,000 study cost is being shared equally by the Santa Fe Irrigation District, the San Dieguito Water District (SDWD) and the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority (SEJPA), which form a natural partnership. The Santa Fe Irrigation District and San Dieguito Water District each own major components of the potential project infrastructure, and the water supply would originate at San Elijo Joint Powers Authority.

This study is just one part of a multi-pronged program by Santa Fe Irrigation District to ensure long-term reliable local water supplies in the face of the worst drought in California’s recorded history. More information about Santa Fe Irrigation District actions to increase water conservation and improve the water supply are summarized below:

•New Home Water Conservation Checkups to improve conservation and water use efficiency. Santa Fe Irrigation District customers have reduced water use by over 20 percent since 2007. But this is not enough to close the water supply gap. The district is therefore instituting a new landscape efficiency program that provides a detailed review of individual properties and providing the owners with a complete description of how they can conserve more water on their specific property.

•Continuing with level 2 mandatory water conservation measures. These include mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering such as assigned days for watering, limiting irrigation time on lawns to ten minutes per watering stations per assigned day, prohibition of overspray and waste, and more.

•Reviewing water rates and considering new tiers to promote water conservation and fund water supply needs. A new rate structure with steeper tiered rates could promote conservation and provide the funding needed to invest in long-term water supply independence for our customers and community. These rates will be evaluated in the coming months.

Actions to enhance the community’s long-term water independence with new locally controlled water supplies:

•Collaborating to develop additional recycled water. The district is collaborating with 10 local agencies in a coalition called the North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition (NSDWRC) to seek state and federal funding for a series of recycled water projects. The outside funding is needed because the cost of purple pipe projects is high partly due to the need to build special purple pipelines and separate water storage tanks.

Recycled water facility construction costs are estimated at about $20 million to deliver up to 700 acre-feet of water per year. This water can then be delivered to a handful of large properties, including a golf course. Their use of recycled water would decrease use of potable water, thereby saving it for use by other customers.

•Launching an “Advanced Water Purification Concept Study.” This would evaluate the feasibility of taking recycled wastewater and treating it to a high enough level so that it could be used for potable water. The purpose of the study is to estimate its costs and feasibility. However, for costs similar to that of recycled water, it might provide up to four times as much water that could be used by all customers. This potential cost effectiveness and ability to deliver much more water is what makes this project compelling to consider.

The district will keep the community informed of progress on all aspects of water supply actions of the board and provide numerous opportunities for the public to learn more and provide input.

“The bottom line is that our traditional water sources are under increasing stress – and we are facing chronic water supply shortages if we don’t take action,” said Michael Hogan, president of the Santa Fe Irrigation District Board of Directors. “In these challenging times it is important to have a diversified portfolio so that when one source is cut off or diminished the others are available. That is why Santa Fe Irrigation District is working to help our customers conserve water, and continuing to evaluate both recycled water and potable reuse.”

At the conclusion of the Advanced Purification study, it is expected that decisions will be made to move forward assertively with either the recycled water or the potable reuse project. The water from either project would be completely drought-proof and provide substantial improved local water supply independence.

For more information, contact: Jessica Parks, public information officer at (858) 756-2424 or by visiting www.sfidwater.org.

— Submitted press release