San Diego

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Photo of Water in Lake

The City of San Diego has been reliably delivering quality water to customersfor more than 100 years and has developed one of the most complex and sophisticated water systems in the world. However, San Diego is not blessed with an abundant local water supply. With an average annual rainfall of 10 inches on the coast, San Diego invested in infrastructure to capture local rainfall and to import the majority of its water, approximately 85 percent, primarily from the Colorado River and the State Water Project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta.

Today, rising imported water costs, population growth and ongoing drought presentsa challenge to San Diego's water reliability. The City and the region are experiencing water supply reliability and sustainability challenges, resulting in a regional Drought Alert. The present situation further underscores the importance of local strategic planning for short-, mid- and long-term water supplies.

Pure Water San Diego

Pure Water San Diego uses proven technology to purify recycled waterthrough membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation with ultraviolet light, and hydrogen peroxide. To confirm the viability and safety of the water purification process, the City conducted a one-year demonstration project. One million gallons of water were purified every day for a year at the City's Advanced Water Purification Facility. More than 9,000 water quality tests and rigorous daily monitoring ensured no contaminants were present in the water and that recycled water can be purified and safely added to a reservoir. The California Department of Public Health (now the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water Programs) and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the water purification concept and confirmed the purified water meets all federal and state drinking water standards.

On November 18, 2014, the San Diego City Council votedunanimously to approve the advancement of Pure Water San Diego, which includes the City's submittal of an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to renew the modified permit for the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (Point Loma). Without the permit, the City would need to upgrade Point Loma to secondary treatment requirements, which would cost $1.8 billion, require overcoming extreme space constraints and would produce no new water. Investing in the Pure Water program and seeking federal approval to allow San Diego to meet modified secondary standards will eliminate the need for the costly upgrades, enable the City to divert more water for recycling, and reduce ocean discharges.

1/3 Sustainable Supply

The City is moving forward on a programto purify recycled water for drinking and ultimately provide a third of San Diego's water supply needs by 2035. The first phase is slated to produce 15 million gallons of water per day (MGD) by 2021.

Here's How It Works

Photo of How it Works


An initial 15 million gallons of water per day (MGD) water purification facility is plannedto be in operation by 2021. The long-term goal, producing 83` MGD (one-third of San Diego's future drinking water supply), is scheduled for completion in 2035. Pure Water will divert approximately 100 MGD of wastewater from Point Loma to three future advanced water purification facilities located at the North City Water Reclamation Plant, South Bay Water Reclamation Plant and a future central area facility.

Free tours of the Advanced Water Purification Facility are available to the public.During the tour, participants get an up-close look at the water purification technology and have the opportunity to compare samples of purified, tap and recycled water. Visit purewatersd.org to sign up for a tour or presentation and learn more about Pure Water San Diego.

Recycled water will bepurified at the North City Plant and delivered to a reservoir.Initial Phase2021,15 MGD

Recycled water willbe purified at a central area facility and South Bay and delivered to a reservoir.PhaseCompletion2035,83 MGD

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Photo of Sprinkler


To help meet future water demands while reducing our dependence on importedwater, the City of San Diego built the North City Water Reclamation Plant and the South Bay Water Reclamation Plant. These plants treat wastewater to a level that is approved for irrigation, manufacturing and other non-drinking (non-potable) purposes. The North City Plant has the capability to treat 30 million gallons a day and the South Bay Plant can treat 15 million gallons a day. Recycled water gives San Diego a dependable, year-round, locally controlled water resource. The City will continue to serve customers along the City's recycled water distribution system, with approximately 660 connections in place in 2015. For more information, visit sandiego.gov/water/recycled.

Photo of a Drilling Truck


The City is exploring the feasibility of using local groundwater basins foraugmenting water supply and providing water storage. Currently, the City is also generating 500 acre-feet of water, enough to sustain 2,000 houses for a year, from existing wells in East County. The City is partnering with the Sweetwater Authority on a groundwater desalination facility expansion that provides up to 2,600 acre feet of water to San Diego per year by 2018. The City is also actively exploring other areas of the region, coordinating with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. For more information, visit sandiego.gov/water/gen-info/watersupply.shtml

Photo of Rain Barrels


Capturing rain from your roof is an easy way to conserve water andhelp prevent pollution by reducing the amount of runoff entering our storm drain system. The City initiated a rainwater harvesting program as a tool to raise public awareness of water issues, promote customer responsibility, and reduce imported water use. For more information, visit sandiego.gov/water/conservation/rebates/rainbarrel.shtml


Photo of Desalination Plant

As the largest member agency of the San Diego County Water Authority,the City is supporting the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which includes the largest, most technologically advanced and energy-efficient seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The plant will produce desalinated water for use throughout San Diego County.

The $1 Billion San Diego County Water Authority project is expected toproduce drinking water for the San Diego region in fall 2015, providing a major new drought-proof water supply that will meet about seven percent of the county's water demands. It will produce 50 MGD and account for about one-third of all water locally generated in San Diego County. For more information, visit sdcwa.org.

Photo of Lake Dam


The City of San Diego is working closely with the San Diego County Water Authority's Emergency Storage Project. A system of reservoirs,interconnected pipelines and pumping stations, this project is designed to make water available to the San Diego region in the event of an interruption in imported water deliveries. It will also allow the City to better capture rain water runoff in our reservoirs.

As part of this project, the Water Authority raised the height of thedam of the City's San Vicente Reservoir. San Vicente Dam originallystood at 220 feet and could store up to 90,000 acre-feet of water. The dam raise project increased the height of the dam by 117 feet - the tallest dam raise in the United States and the tallest of its type in the world. The raised dam will store up to an additional 152,000 acre-feet of water, more than doubling the capacity of the original reservoir.

On-site preparations began in 2009. The new dam reached its fullheight in late 2012, and new instrumentation and outlet facilities were completed in summer 2014. Further work to construct a new pipeline and restore the site will continue through 2016.

The design and construction of the dam raise has been closelymonitored by the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, to ensure the new dam is built to the highest safety standards.

For more information, visit the San Diego County Water Authority'sweb site at sdcwa.org/san-vicente-dam-raise

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