TUSTIN : City Approves Two Key Water Projects

Two water projects designed to cut the city's dependence on imported water and protect it from future drought have been approved.

The projects are building a ground-water desalination plant at 18602 E. 17th St. and a new well on Vandenburg Lane.

The projects, recently given unanimous approval by the City Council, will help do two things, said Gary Veeh, manager of the city water service division: "Clean up the ground-water basin and protect our supply . . . and give us a local supply that we have control over."

Cities that are not entirely dependent on imported water can more easily curb customer use during droughts, he said. About 30% of the city's water supply is imported from the Metropolitan Water District.

The city is working with the Orange County Water District, which is responsible for financing and building the plant and the well, which respectively will cost the city $5.4 million and $600,000, Veeh said.

The ground-water desalter plant will be Tustin's second. A test plant, the first ground-water desalter plant in the county, was built two years ago at the Water Department headquarters at 235 E. Main St.

"We have to be aggressive in terms of the total (water) picture," Councilman Richard B. Edgar said. "There may be a point where we could actually be supplying water to our surrounding neighbors."

The East 17th Street desalter plant will serve three existing wells in the area that are inoperable now because of poor water quality. Nitrate levels in the area's ground water exceed 94 milligrams per liter; state standards limit nitrate levels for drinking water to 45 milligrams per liter.

The desalter system, expected to be completed in about two years, will produce about 3,200 acre-feet of water per year, with a nitrate level of about 32 milligrams per liter; one acre-foot of water, or 325,900 gallons, is enough for two families of four for a year.

"This plant will not affect rates, because basically we are taking money we would have paid to the Metropolitan Water District," Veeh said. Tustin's last water rate increase was in 1984.

The Vandenburg well, expected to be completed by June, 1993, will boost the city's self-sufficiency even further. Veeh said the well will tap into an aquifer 1,200 to 1,400 feet underground, where the water quality is better. Officials are unsure how much water the well will produce.

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