City Council to take up ‘toilet-to-tap’ water issue

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday taking what city officials and environmental groups believe will be a major step toward recycling waste water into drinking water.

The main item the council members will take up will be whether to seek renewal of a federal permit needed to continue operations of the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Within the plan, however, is a commitment by the city to begin a $3.5 billion project to recycle water for potable use. Supporters hope the pledge will allow the city to avoid spending $2 billion to upgrade the aging treatment plant. While the outlay is higher, the payoff would be a new, stable source of water for the drought-prone city.

The project is touted as being able to recycle enough purified water to make up 30 percent of San Diego’s drinking water in 2035.

“This is one of the city’s most critical projects that will help our region grow and thrive, and establish San Diego as a national environmental leader,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at an event last week.

Environmental groups like San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and the San Diego Audubon Society all back the city’s approach.

“San Diego is at the end of the pipe, and we need solutions now,” said Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation Executive Director Marco Gonzalez. “This is going to give us a new, drought-proof water source that we desperately need to succeed as a region.”

Often derided with names like “toilet-to-tap,” a multi-step cleansing process being tested by the city 1 million gallons daily produces water cleaner than what residents drink now and meets or exceeds quality standards, according to backers of the plan.

The project would be paid for by a mix of state and federal grants, and rate increases on consumers.

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