Recycled Water to Play Larger Role in South Orange County's Water Future

Metropolitan Water District's board of directors approved a project that will upgrade two water recycling plants in south Orange County to ultimately treat and deliver nearly 3 billion gallons of water per year for landscape irrigation

A project that will upgrade two water recycling plants in south Orange County to ultimately treat and deliver nearly 3 billion gallons of water per year for landscape irrigation was approved by Metropolitan Water District's board of directors.

Metropolitan's board authorized Chief Executive Officer Ronald R. Gastelum to finalize an agreement with the Municipal Water District of Orange County and Irvine Ranch Water District that could provide as much as $25 million in incentives for the project over the next 25 years.

"Every drop of recycled water produced and used makes an equal drop of freshwater available for other uses," Gastelum said. "These types of water management projects and programs are the backbone of our resources plan that secures our water future by strengthening regional supply reliability, reducing imported water costs and helping to defer additional capital improvements."

The Irvine Ranch project is among 13 selected through a competitive process for participation in Metropolitan's local resources program, which provides economic incentives for recycling and groundwater clean-up efforts throughout MWD's six-county service area.

The $39.3 million project will upgrade the Michelson Water Reclamation Plant in Irvine and Los Alisos Water Reclamation Plant in Lake Forest to increase the plants' current combined output, eventually providing another 8,500 acre-feet of recycled water for use in the two cities.

Highly treated wastewater from the plants will be used to irrigate household lawns, parks, schools, golf courses, greenbelts and freeway landscaping. (An acre-foot of water is nearly 326,000 gallons, enough to meet the annual needs of two typical Southland families in and around their homes.)

Over the past 22 years, Metropolitan has committed more than $140 million toward regional recycled water and groundwater clean-up projects, which produce over 128,000 acre-feet of water a year. Overall, urban Southern California conserves, recycles and recovers more than 900,000 acre-feet of water a year, about the total amount used annually in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver.

Kevin Hunt, MWDOC's general manager, commended the agencies for their spirit of teamwork and cooperation in forging the agreement.

"This upgrade clearly illustrates the important role that local projects play in countywide and regional water management efforts," Hunt said. "It will not only improve recycled water production and distribution in Irvine Ranch's service area, but will reduce the need for imported water, allowing Metropolitan to redirect this water to meet demand in other parts of the region."

Greg Heiertz, Irvine Ranch's director of engineering and planning, noted the agency's long history of leadership in local water resource development. "We appreciate the support of Metropolitan and the Municipal Water District of Orange County in our commitment to the efficient development of our water resources, and we look forward to working with both agencies again in the future," he said.

The agreement calls for the plants, which currently produce a total of nearly 15,000 acre-feet of recycled water a year, to include additional treatment facilities, water tanks, three reservoirs, and pumping stations, as well as seven miles of pipeline. Under the agreement, Metropolitan will provide $117 for every additional acre-foot of recycled water produced and delivered by the project for 25 years.

In other actions today, for the fifth straight year, the board reduced the district's property tax rate, from .0061 percent of assessed valuations to .0058 for the 2004-05 fiscal year.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

Business Wire

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