Switching to reusable water may not save ratepayers much money, but it might facilitate a divorce from foreign water sources that San Diego has been craving for decades, according to a new report presented to a city council committee Tuesday.
The report looked into reusable water sources as a way to supplement existing water sources. San Diego shares its water through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The imported water costs on average about $900 per acre-foot in San Diego. It’s expected to reach about $2,000 per acre-foot in the next nine years. Switching to reusable water wouldn't make much of a difference, price-wise.
So why bother? For one, it will allow San Diego distance itself from Metropolitan. Currently, San Diego County relies on water sourced from Northern California and the Colorado River for about 80 percent of water used, the report states.
Another reason to switch is that doing so may drive down the cost of updating the Point Loma Water Treatment Facility. The recommended updates to the Point Loma facility are expected to cost about $1.2 billion.
Reusing water would bring that cost down to about $710 million, since less water would flow through the facility, according to the report.
If Point Loma gets the upgrade, it would increase San Diego’s chances of renewing the facility’s permit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after it expires in 2015.
The report lists a number of ways the city could utilize reusable water. The options cost between $2.7 and $3.5 billion over 50 years.
Indirect potable reuse – critics called it the ‘toilet-to-tap’ method – is one way the city would maximize reusable water. A pilot project was launched last summer to determine if IPR is safe for drinking. Results from that project are expected to be released at the end of 2012. (Ed. Note: an earlier version of this article dated May 23 stated that the report would be released in the next couple months, when it will be released in late 2012.)