District: New facility achieves 1960s dream

They're calling it the "Murph."

The Mesa Water Reliability Facility — or MWRF — had its official unveiling during a private event Wednesday afternoon.

Costa Mesa politicians and Mesa Water District employees were among the nearly 150 who toured the Gisler Avenue facility adjacent to the San Diego (405) Freeway in Costa Mesa.

The $20-million facility was completed in December after a nearly two-year construction process. It boasts more energy efficiency and a 50% greater water production rate than the Colored Water Treatment Facility it replaced. MWRF produces about 8.6 million gallons per day at a rate of 6,000 gallons per minute.

The result, Mesa Water officials said, is a drought-proof, completely local water supply that ends the need for expensive water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. The district serves most of Costa Mesa, portions of Newport Beach and nearby unincorporated areas, including John Wayne Airport.

During the ceremony, Mesa Water engineer Phil Lauri — with the steady hum of the water-producing mechanisms echoing around him — talked about MWRF's technology that extracts the underground aquifer's amber-colored water.

He held one of the nanofiltration membranes, a tube-like device that filters organic material from the amber water to make it colorless.

"The heart of the process are these vessels right here," he said, pointing to the membrane that originated in the food processing industry. "You're targeting the removal of the color molecule."

Aesthetics are everything when you drink water, Lauri said: "We want to make sure we're meeting people's expectations with that."

MWRF complements the district's six other well sites, which don't undergo any color treatment. Those wells, though, produce significantly less water than MWRF, he said.

"We have the ability to keep our ratepayers' cost as low as possible," he said. "That's what our mission and our board's mission is to do."

Among the landscaping within the MWRF complex are some redwood trees. They're an homage to the area's ancient forest of more than 100,000 years ago. Today, remnants of that forest are what give the aquifer water its amber color.

"We're digging it out of an ancient redwood forest," said Mesa Water board President James Fisler. He called "the Murph" a "proud moment" for the district.

"It's the culmination of the dreams from 1960, when we were 100% imported," Fisler said. "The early board wanted to be 100% local. We've been ratcheting that way, and this is the final piece."

An earlier version incorrectly quoted Jim Fisler as saying, "We've been rationing that way ...," but he in fact said "ratcheting."


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