The Santa Margarita River flows through town but Fallbrook had to fight for 70 years to finally use it.
The narrow river winds its way from Riverside County, through Fallbrook, and eventually onto Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. For the longest time, the military base did not want to share the river’s water with Fallbrook. The federal government filed a lawsuit against Fallbrook in 1951. Since then, Fallbrook Public Utility District General Manager Jack Bebee said they’ve battled, negotiated, and pleaded with all levels of government.
“This project that took us about 70 years to complete,” Bebee said while standing inside the new $60 million Santa Margarita Groundwater Treatment Plant.
Bebee said the plant will purify millions of gallons of water from the Santa Margarita River every year. It will supply Fallbrook with about half of its water needs. He said there will still be enough for Camp Pendleton’s needs as well.
Bebee said the purified water from the plant will keep water bills for local residents from increasing as quickly as they would if Fallbrook kept buying from the San Diego County Water Authority, which imports water from California’s State Water Project and the Colorado River.
“The cost of this water is less expensive than our other supplies,” said Bebee.
Bebee added the locally generated water in Fallbrook means there will be more water for other communities.
“It does benefit them in that we become more independent, and those supplies become more available for everyone,” he said. “It’s a big deal for the community of Fallbrook.”