(TNS) -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials were in Carlsbad on Wednesday to announce more than $182 million in federal funding that will be funneled to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements throughout California.
EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld made the announcement at the Carlsbad Water Recycling Facility, which has received about $37 million in low-interest loans funded by the federal agency over the past several years to nearly double output at the plant.
The expansion now underway will allow Carlsbad to use recycled water, which is available only for irrigation and industrial uses, to meet close to 33 percent of the city’s water needs.
With California mired in an unprecedented drought that even a strong El Nino rainy season is unlikely to end, finding ways to limited water supplies stretch farther has taken on a new urgency.
“We are thinking sustainability,” Blumenfeld said. “We are going to have more dry years in the future, and this is our insurance against that.”
The federal money goes into the California Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans to local water districts for projects that will reduce pollution, improve drinking water, and increase efficiency. As districts repay the loans, that money becomes available for new water projects.
The city of San Diego is in line to receive roughly $9 million in loans to help pay for a sewer pipeline rehabilitation project and a new Sorrento Mesa recycled water pipeline. The city also recently used loans from the program to upgrade its Metro Biosolids Center, which takes solids from area wastewater treatment plants and turns it into fertilizer for parks, gardens and agricultural crops.
Escondido, La Mesa, and the Valley Center Municipal Water District also have projects due to receive loans.
The Valley Center district would get $4 million toward expanding its Woods Valley Ranch Wastewater Treatment Plant. That project has already received almost $31 million in state revolving fund loans, said the water district’s General Manager Gary Arant.
The expansion is allowing the plant to offer sewer service to areas that otherwise would be on septic systems, he said. Recycled water from the plant will replace potable water now used to irrigate a nearby golf course and other areas, or piped into a new storage reservoir that’s also being built.
He said the sewer needs date back to the 1970s and the district had tried twice before to expand the treatment plant.
“This one was largely successful because of access to the state water revolving fund money,” Arant said. “It’s very rewarding to see it happen.”
The EPA chose the Carlsbad recycling plant for Wednesday’s announcement because it sets an example for water districts across the state, Blumenfeld said. The plant uses filtration, micro filtration and disinfection to clean wastewater and make it suitable for irrigation and industrial uses.
“This recycling facility shows the potential,” Blumenfeld said. “This is the kind of technology that we want to spread.”
Every gallon of recycled water means one less gallon of potable water that the city must buy, said Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. Recycled water also about one-quarter the cost of imported potable water.
“The city is proud to be a leader in the production of recycled water,” Hall said.
Carlsbad is expanding its recycling plant’s peak capacity from the present 4,100 acre-feet per year to more than 7,200 acre-feet per year. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre one foot deep, or to meet the needs of two typical families of four for a year.
The city also is building a second reservoir for recycled water and expanding its recycled water delivery system by adding 18 miles of pipe to its existing 79-mile distribution system.
When the expansion is complete, Carlsbad will be able to deliver all its own recycled water and an additional 4,000 acre-feet purchased from the neighboring Leucadia and Vallecitos water districts, or as much as 11,000 acre-feet in all. Because most recycled water is used for irrigation, that peak would only be reached during the summers, when days are long and rain is scarce.
Projects elsewhere in the state that are expected to receive funding this year include one to switch the city of Davis from groundwater to the Sacramento River for its drinking supply, which would reduce the amount of selenium in the water supply.
Another portion of this year’s money will go to San Francisco for stormwater control projects in a disadvantaged residential area of the city.
La Mesa is using roughly $25 million in state revolving fund money for several large sewer system capital improvement projects that the city needs, said Public Works Director Gregory P. Humora.
“It’s a really good way to put together a larger capital improvement project that we would not be able to do normally with just CIP (capital improvement program) funds,” Humora said.
The EPA has awarded more than $4.6 billion to California’s clean water and drinking water funds since 1988.
©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.