The state’s Department of Water Resources has a grant program for Integrated Regional Water Management projects, and the most recent award of grants includes $687,500 to the Fallbrook Public Utility District for an indirect potable reuse pilot project.
DWR officially awarded $15 million in grant funds to the San Diego County Water Authority, July 8. The SDCWA will use $1,440,000 for regional water use efficiency programs, and $920,180 will be used by the CWA to administer the grants.
The funding for the other six grants will be given to FPUD and to five other agencies which will conduct studies and/or build projects. The seven projects would reduce total imported demand by an estimated 38,000 acre-feet.
Approximately 87% of that reduction would be from the city of San Diego’s indirect potable water reuse project, and approximately 1,500 acre-feet would involve conservation-based savings.
“It’s going to help support the reliability and the resiliency of the water supply in the San Diego region,” Mark Stadler, CWA’s principal water resources specialist, who is the program manager for the CWA’s IRWM program, said.
The FPUD project would place recycled water, which is currently discharged into the ocean, into the Santa Margarita River basin. The indirect potable reuse program would be separate from the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project but would enhance the additional supply provided by storing water in that basin.
“It gives us the opportunity of expanding local supplies,” Jack Bebee, general manager of FPUD, said.
The pilot project will determine the feasibility of developing advanced purification facilities to treat existing water both from U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and from FPUD, and the process will include design and other nonconstruction matters as well as two pilot facilities.
“The funding has to come through us, so we're the lead, but we're working in partnership with Camp Pendleton,” Bebee said.
FPUD and Camp Pendleton currently discharge approximately 2.6 million gallons per day of treated water into the Pacific Ocean through the Oceanside Outfall. The Conjunctive Use Project constructed facilities to convey water from the Santa Margarita River basin, so it is possible that water undergoing tertiary treatment could also be stored in the groundwater basin and later extracted and treated to meet potable water standards.
The current discharge total would equate to approximately 3,000 acre-feet per year should feasibility studies and permits lead to construction of an indirect potable reuse project. If the project is ultimately constructed, treated effluent would be diverted to the existing Upper Ysidora percolation ponds and infiltrated into the groundwater basin.
“They will supplement the water supply in the Santa Margarita with highly purified recycled water,” Bebee said.
“It’s a pilot project, and it’s going to look at a couple of different ways of potable reuse,” Stadler said. “In effect it will create a new water supply. It will increase groundwater storage, and it will reduce Fallbrook’s dependence on imported water.”
The November 2014 election included the passage of Proposition 1, which allocates $510 million for IRWM projects including $37 million to the San Diego County portion of the San Diego hydrologic region. DWR does not issue the entire amount of IRWM funding in one grant application process but utilizes rounds of grant applications and awards.
The CWA administers grants for member agencies and other applicants. Because the grant funding is allocated by region, the San Diego region will receive the full amount although DWR must approve the specific projects. The grant application process includes consultation with DWR, and some of the applications may be refined.
In September 2019, the CWA board approved submitting grant applications for the seven projects including the FPUD indirect potable reuse pilot project.
“We had been anticipating it,” Bebee said of the grant.
The grants do not fully fund the projects. The estimated cost of the FPUD pilot project is $1,380,000.
FPUD’s board voted 5-0, Feb. 24, to award a $745,000 professional services contract to Hazen and Sawyer.
“The project’s underway,” Bebee said.
Hazen and Sawyer will design the pilot treatment systems, assist with regulatory compliance, provide oversight to the operations of the pilot system and produce a feasibility report based on the results of the pilot study.
“Part of the feasibility study is to put together some pilot facilities,” Bebee said.
The pilot project will consist of two pilot facilities and a tracer study. One pilot facility will be located at FPUD’s water reclamation plant and will be designed for livestream discharge to Fallbrook Creek.
The other pilot facility will be located at Camp Pendleton’s Southern Region Tertiary Treatment Plant and will be designed to convey treated water to the percolation ponds. The pilot project will determine the best treatment process as well as the feasibility of utilizing reclaimed water to augment groundwater in the lower Santa Margarita River basin.
The timeline for the pilot project is based on when FPUD receives the grant funding.
“Even if you’re awarded by the state, there’s still some delay getting money,” Bebee said.
The Dec. 3 Rainbow Municipal Water District board meeting and the Dec. 9 FPUD board meeting approved a memorandum of understanding between the two districts to work with each other on new water resource development and emergency supply.
Rainbow will participate in the feasibility study including assisting in the development of technical data related to the district’s customer demands to identify the potential amount of water from the project Rainbow could use. The pilot project studies will identify the expected allocation of flows, and Rainbow has agreed to fund 15% of the non-grant share, or $105,000.
The feasibility study for the FPUD project will address not only technical and permitting feasibility but also whether the project would be cost-efficient.
“Cost is a big driver,” Bebee said. “If the answer’s no, we won’t continue to pursue the project.”
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].