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Water recycling is getting a boost in Southern California with new federal funding

The Biden administration announced that Southern California’s plan to build the nation’s largest wastewater recycling plant will be supported by $99.2 million in federal funds, an investment officials say is a down payment on making the region more resilient against the consequences of climate change. .

The proposed facility, called Pure Water Southern California, is expected to cost $8 billion. When completed, it will recycle enough wastewater to produce 150 million liters of clean drinking water every day – enough to supply about half a million homes.

“Investments in water recycling and reuse are critical to increasing limited water supplies, making systems more resilient to the impacts of drought in the American West,” said Camille Calimlim Touton, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “Water recycling plays a crucial role in improving sustainable water supply. It is an innovative and cost-effective instrument that can make our water supply more reliable.”

Plans for the Carson facility call for treated wastewater currently released into the ocean to be purified using advanced technologies to produce drinking water. That purified water will be used to replenish the groundwater and will continue to do so sent directly to the region’s distribution system Can be combined with other supplies.

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“This project will help us provide resiliency not only for Southern California, but for California and the Southwest,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which is planning with Los Angeles County developed for the project. Sanitary districts.

“This is the future of the West, and we can’t do it alone,” Hagekhalil said, speaking to an audience of federal, state and local officials at a recycled water demonstration plant in Carson.

The MWD project is one of four water recycling projects that the Department of the Interior is supporting with grants totaling $179 million. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds also include $60 million for two other water recycling projects Los Angeles And Venturaand $20.5 million for a project in Utah.

The projects will receive a portion of the $450 million the federal government has set aside for major water recycling projects – part of the $8.3 billion included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for water infrastructure projects over five years.

Democratic Senator Alex Padilla said these types of projects are vital for the entire western United States as climate change increases pressure on limited water supplies.

“Our destinies are linked because our water infrastructure is linked,” Padilla said, noting that southwestern states have a common interest in reducing dependence on the Colorado River’s shrinking supply.

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“Recycling is part of the bucket. California has shown that we can do it, and we can do it well,” Padilla said. “We have to do it on a big, big scale.”

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The MWD previously received nearly $87 million in state and federal funds to support its water recycling project plan. Water agencies in Arizona and Nevada have done so as well agreed to contribute to help pay for the planning.

The Metropolitan Water District, which serves as a wholesaler for 26 member agencies and provides water to 19 million people, said the latest funds will help advance design work and improvements to existing infrastructure.

The MWD board is expected to vote later this year on whether to approve an additional $300 million in local funds — a 3-to-1 match required under the terms of the federal grant.

MWD executives are also calling for $1 billion for recycled water projects to be included in a proposed climate bond measure that would go before voters in November.

An environmental review is expected to be completed by the end of 2025, and the MWD board will then consider whether to move forward with the Pure Water project. The district says construction is expected to begin in 2026, and the plant could be operational and providing water by 2032.

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Last year was the MWD named its water recycling demonstration plant in Carson after Rep. Grace Napolitano, the retiring Norwalk Democrat who is an outspoken advocate of recycled water.

“Water supplies in Western and Southern California have witnessed increasing stresses due to climate change,” Napolitano said. “I hope that a large-scale project like Pure Water can act as a blueprint for other regions and stimulate the development of regional drought-resilient projects.”

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Adán Ortega Jr., chairman of the MWD board of directors, said purified recycled water will provide “a climate-resilient supply.”

Ortega said the $8 billion project, as well as other investments the district is pursuing, “will stand the test of time like the Hoover Dam of our time.”

He described it as laying the foundation for a “new and endless river.”

“We are building an endless river for the Southwest,” he said, “for the next century and beyond.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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