Surfrider is pursuing a paradigm shift in how we look at and treat wastewater. With the implementation of the Pure Water project, we believe that cities and agencies will continue to realize the value of recycling wastewater to drinking standards (much like they have done in Orange County, which is currently increasing recycling capacity), and ultimately less and less wastewater will end up in the ocean. Water is much too valuable to use it once, and then send it to ocean; only to use more energy and cause more harm by pulling it out again for desalination. We call that the cycle of insanity.
The City of San Diego is pursuing a different approach. By reducing the flow to the Point Loma Wastewater plant by 100 MGD (Million Gallons a Day), that means a lot less waste is ending up in the oceans. Moreover, the City will create a new locally reliable source of water, which will reduce the impacts of importing water or desalinating water. The offloaded 100 mgd will ultimately produce 83 mgd of drinking water, 1/3 of San Diego’s water supply. Furthermore, at least the first phase of the Pure Water project (30 mgd) will be powered by renewable energy, making it a highly desirable water supply in terms of dealing with climate change.
For Surfrider, this not about saving money for the city. This is about creating a new vision for water management, which is centered around multiple benefits (reduced GHG emissions, less energy, less wastewater to the ocean) instead of multiple impacts.
The City of San Diego conducts one of the most comprehensive monitoring programs offshore from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant. If the situation in the marine environment begins to change, or we start to see significant impacts, we will be able to advocate for additional treatment at the plant. Decades of monitoring by the City, backed up by Scripps, shows the health of fish and benthic critters around the discharge to be as good or better than the areas around the discharges of secondary treated sewage in Orange County and Los Angeles. Also, no shoreline fecal bacteria readings have ever been attributed to the advanced primary treatment discharge off Point Loma.
Lastly, we believe that the recently accelerated time schedule for the Pure Water project is a real win for the environment and the region. Where the City had previously promised to provide 15 mgd of recycled drinking water by 2023, they will now provide 30 mgd by 2021, with the ultimate commitment to provide at least 83 mgd by 2035! Instead of going to secondary treatment at Point Loma and making the discharge slightly cleaner, San Diego will be reducing their total ocean discharge volume by about half, and there is always room for more reductions!
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