Supply and storage of imported water and water conservation are two of three important aspects for ensuring that San Diego has a dependable future supply of water. These two aspects were discussed in The Times' Dec. 6 Commentary section. The third aspect of providing San Diego with a dependable source of water, that neither author touched on, is reuse of water that has been reclaimed from what we have viewed in the past as waste water.
Reclaimed water avoids many of the concerns raised in the commentaries. Emily Durbin voiced a concern for the loss of riparian habitat that would be caused by Pamo Dam. She advocated less environmentally damaging alternatives, such as water storage in ground water basins and/or increasing the height of San Vicente Reservoir, to meet emergency water needs resulting from drought or earthquake.
Hank Nowicki pointed out that while we need to practice greater conservation of water, we are practicing a life style replete with non-essential uses of water, such as building artificial lakes for inland developments, automatic water devices that operate when it is raining and constructing more golf courses.
San Diego is now in a position where it is economically feasible to reclaim water from waste water and reuse it for most purposes except drinking. Uses for reclaimed water that other communities have found to be desirable include: recharging aquifers to reduce salinity problems and provide for water storage; irrigating greenbelts, yards, freeway landscaping, parks and golf courses; enhancing riparian habitats and creating artificial lakes and water gardens.
By reducing our dependence on imported water through water reuse, we achieve many of the objectives of water conservation.
San Diego is now embarking on a program that will upgrade treatment given waste water in the Metro Sewer System from advanced primary to secondary treatment or better. This upgrade (probably costing in excess of $1 billion and taking to the end of the century to complete), can produce treated water that can be used for a variety of applications for which we now use imported water.
Water reclamation plants can be built in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and free of odor, noise and other annoyances. Covered reclamation plants that are architecturally designed to fit into expensive developments around golf courses in Arizona attest to the ability of these plants to be good neighbors.
Reclaimed water also might be able to help offset the costs of secondary treatment if a way can be found under state law to use reclaimed water for recreational lakes, water parks and other commercial ventures to generate revenues.
Water Reuse Committee
for the Metro Sewer Task Force