Purification Plant Would End L.A. Agency's Need for Northern California Water

The proposed project would treat sewage water and bring it up to drinking quality standards.

by / November 4, 2015
Water levels are low in many California reservoirs. Shutterstock/Joe Belanger

Up against a historic drought and increasingly warm temperatures, one water management firm in Southern California is proposing a project it said would eliminate its need to draw from distant rivers and deltas.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California, which provides water to about 4 million people in the southern part of Los Angeles County, proposed on Tuesday, Nov. 3, a water purification plant that would allow it to take water from a sewage treatment plant, bring it up to quality standards, and then pump it into underground aquifers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the project’s finances haven’t been nailed down yet — the money could come from state and local water bond programs — but the district plans on completing the facility in 2018.

The district already owns the project site, an industrial location in the city of Pico Rivera, sandwiched between Montebello and Whittier. District officials put the cost at $95 million.

The Los Angeles area, abundant in population but not water, has a long history of drawing water from distant areas. Today the California State Water Project pumps water through hundreds of miles of desert and mountain from a river delta west of Stockton to the southern part of the state. The replenishment district draws on the delta as well as the Colorado River.

But the state has been in a drought of historic proportions for years, and an October report from the California Natural Resources Agency warned that residents need to buckle up for drought-like conditions to worsen. That’s because the temperature continues to climb, leading to reduced snowpack in the Sierra Mountains — a big source of water for the delta that feeds into the California State Water Project.

For that very reason, the Natural Resources Agency has called on water districts to find ways to make their water sources more reliable.

The proposed purification plant should make the district entirely self-reliant, according to the Times article — it wouldn’t have to draw water from non-local sources. It would also cut down the cost of water, as imported water costs about $1,000 per acre foot and purified sewage water costs around $200.