CARLSBAD — The city of Carlsbad added nine newly retrofitted properties to its recycled water program in the first quarter of 2010, which will save 9.5 million gallons of drinking water a year. Additional expansion plans are already underway.
Recycled water is wastewater that has been treated to a level suitable for irrigation and other non-drinking uses. Using recycled water frees up drinking water, which is in short supply due to an ongoing drought and legal restrictions on water pumped from Northern California.
Under the city’s recycled water retrofit project, the city installs recycled water lines to serve existing development in areas of the city where recycled water is available. Water customers pay to upgrade their irrigation systems to use recycled water. Because it is only used for non-drinking purposes, recycled water must be delivered through a pipeline system separate from the regular water system. Recycled water pipes and fixtures are purple to distinguish them from the drinking water system.
Carlsbad has the highest per capita use of recycled water in the county. Nearly 20 percent of the water delivered by the Carlsbad Municipal Water District is recycled water. All new development in Carlsbad is designed for recycled water use.
Many water agencies throughout San Diego County — including Carlsbad — have placed mandatory water-use restrictions on customers due to the ongoing water shortage. Properties that use recycled water have fewer restrictions, said Elzbieta Karczewski, who works with the city’s recycled water retrofit program. Recycled water also costs customers 15 percent less than potable irrigation water.
Recycled water is available to commercial, industrial and institutional customers and homeowners associations in parts of the city located near main recycled water distribution pipelines. Recycled water is not available to individual residential customers.
Currently, the city has 644 recycled water meters in use, at 337 different sites, including business and industrial parks, homeowners associations, schools, parks and golf courses.
In 2009, the city’s water district—which serves 85 percent of Carlsbad— delivered 4,352 acre-feet of recycled water. An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, or the amount of water used by an average family in a year. The city projects that recycled water usage will increase to 5,000 acre-feet annually by the end of 2010.
To prepare for potential water shortages, the city has aggressively expanded the use of recycled water, promoted increased conservation through water audits and supported the development of a seawater desalination project. A number of city parks, including Calavera Hills and Stagecoach, have recently been converted to recycled water use.
The city has also installed synthetic turf on athletic fields at Pine Avenue, Poinsettia, Stagecoach and Aviara community parks, and on the event area at Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park.