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Contract for FPUD's indirect potable reuse pilot project testing increased

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Fallbrook Public Utility District indirect potable reuse pilot project will be utilizing Hazen and Sawyer for operation of the pilot treatment system.

Hazen and Sawyer had previously been given a $745,000 professional services contract to cover design of the pilot treatment systems, assistance with regulatory compliance, oversight to the operations of the pilot system, and a feasibility report based on the results of the pilot study. A 4-1 FPUD board vote July 25, with Charley Wolk opposed, added $53,295 to the contract while adding the system operation to the scope of work.

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.

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.

“We’re looking into the feasibility of indirect potable reuse,” said FPUD senior engineer Aaron Cook.

The pilot project will determine the feasibility of developing advanced purification facilities to treat existing water both from Camp Pendleton and from FPUD, and the process includes design and other non-construction matters as well as the pilot facility itself. 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.

“A key component of the project is piloting a proposed treatment process,” Cook said.

In November 2002, the state's voters approved Proposition 50, which authorized the spending of $3.4 billion for projects involving fresh water and coastal resources. Chapter 8 of Proposition 50 authorized up to $500 million for Integrated Regional Water Management planning and implementation grants.

In November 2006, the state's voters passed Proposition 84, which authorized $1 billion of IRWM funding including $91 million for the San Diego hydrologic region (which includes parts of Orange County and Riverside County). 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.

The state’s Department of Water Resources does not issue the entire amount of IRWM funding in one grant application process but utilizes rounds of grant applications and awards. The San Diego County Water Authority administers San Diego region 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.

In September 2019, the SDCWA board approved submitting grant applications for the seven projects including the FPUD indirect potable reuse pilot project. The grants do not fully fund the projects; the estimated total cost of the FPUD pilot project is $1,380,000.

In February 2020, FPUD's board voted 5-0 to award a $745,000 professional services contract to Hazen and Sawyer. In July 2020, DWR awarded $15 million in grant funding to the San Diego County Water Authority; FPUD was awarded a $687,500 IRWM grant for the indirect potable reuse pilot project. The actual grant funding was received in June 2021.

Originally FPUD and Camp Pendleton planned two pilot facilities: one at FPUD's water reclamation plant which would be designed for live action discharge to Fallbrook Creek and one at Camp Pendleton's Southern Region Tertiary Treatment Plant which would convey treated water to the percolation ponds. Conveyance expenses caused FPUD to scrap the pilot testing site in Fallbrook since the pipeline infrastructure already in place at Camp Pendleton would require minimal upgrades.

FPUD's board voted 5-0 in October 2021 to authorize a $370,450 agreement with Intuitech for the lease of the pilot treatment equipment. The $370,450 contract award amount does not include internal staff costs which are estimated at $190,000. Intuitech provides on-site commissioning and training services, so FPUD assembled and was operating the equipment.

“There have been a few challenges we’ve encountered during this process,” Cook said.

The troubleshooting and technical assistance activity was more than FPUD anticipated, so FPUD added those to the Hazen and Sawyer tasks. The contract amount was increased from $745,000 to $798,295.

Because the work is over multiple fiscal years, Wolk opposed the contract amendment due to budget considerations. “The money is not in the right place,” he said. “The numbers don’t add up.”


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