Jun 2 2014
Now that the Carlsbad desalination plant is nearing completion, it’s hard
to find detractors. No question it’s a welcome addition to the effort for
San Diego’s water independence. Let us however keep it in perspective. Fifty
million gallons per day sounds like a river of water, and it would be a
torrent if it was flowing in the street.
Not to throw cold water (couldn’t help myself) on the celebrations, but at
fifty mgd, it is about eight percent of the water that San Diego County
consumes every day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days
If San Diegans had to rely on just the output of the Carlsbad plant, every
citizen would be reduced to a maximum of twelve gallons per day. Using the
new high efficiency toilets, you would use up your entire daily allotment by
flushing the toilet seven times, or by running a single shower head for
eight minutes. Got it? Fifty million gallons per day is a drop in the
So why don’t we already have potable (fancy word for drinkable) water
recycling? After all, we recycle aluminum cans, newspapers, certain
plastics, tires, steel, copper and a whole bunch of other materials we use
every day and discard. The sewage system for much of San Diego County is
collected and sent to the Pt. Loma Wastewater plant where [this usually the
point where the engineers use technical terms] they take the chunks out of
the incoming sewage, and dump the remainder in the ocean. San Diego has the
dubious distinction of being the only major city in California that has
successfully avoided complying with the 1972 Clean Water Act for going on
How do they do that? The City Council applies for and receives a waiver
every five years. They did have a little problem with the US Environmental
Protection Agency a few years ago when they missed a deadline, but who
should come to the rescue but our now infamous ex-mayor Bob Filner who
managed to get legislation through Congress to override the EPA’s
administrators so the waiver could be issued. Congressman Sewage they called him,
not realizing how prescient that term really was.
There continues to be much hype about the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, but
what if we recycled enough wastewater to produce potable water that would be
more than triple the output of the Carlsbad plant. Is it possible?
Absolutely. And the County Grand Jury filed a report just three weeks ago on
May 10 that outlines how that can be done.
Would that get us to water independence? No, but it would help us reduce the
dependence we have on the Colorado River. Right now sixty-three percent of
our water has to come from that ever-diminishing, over-drafted river. Seven
states and twenty million people are dependent upon it.
The only way I can see to force the San Diego City Council into action is
for concerned citizens to help block the EPA waiver coming up for renewal in
In all of the political haranguing during this primary election season I
have not heard one office seeker talk about water reliability for San Diego.
Let’s make it a campaign issue for the general election in November. My
guess is no one will touch it. Why? Because water equals water rates equals
higher water rates equal fewer votes. That is a mathematical formula
equivalent to “all politics is local”…..unless the citizens make demands on those who
are responsible for the health and safety (and reliability) of our water
systems. Or maybe twelve gallons a day is enough..what do you think?