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Olivenhain Municipal Water District officials host a valve-turning ceremony on a gusty Monday morning to commemorate the conversion of the Wiegand Reservoir to a recycled water storage facility. Photo by Aaron Burgin
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OMWD celebrates recycled water conversion in Village Park

ENCINITAS — The conversion of a 1 million-gallon water storage tank near Via Cantebria from drinking water to recycled water is the first step of a major shift in how acres of landscape in Village Park are irrigated, and another step toward reducing dependence on imported water, officials with multiple agencies said Monday.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District officials hosted a valve-turning ceremony on a gusty Monday morning to commemorate the conversion of the Wiegand Reservoir to a recycled water storage facility that will ultimately pipe the water into Village Park, which will be used to irrigate the landscaping of 30 of the community’s homeowners associations and three of the local schools.

Officials estimate that the switch to recycled water will free up enough drinking water to service 350 households for a year.

“This is a really important step in the Village Park Recycled Water Project and a testament that … we are firmly committed to reducing the region’s reliance on imported water,” Olivenhain board member Christy Guerin said. “Every drop of recycled water saves potable water for the entire county.”

OMWD officials were joined by representatives of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, which will provide the recycled water that will be stored in the reservoir, to celebrate the change.

Village Park, known for its network of manicured parkways and green spaces that snake through the suburban enclave, was tapped as an ideal recipient of a recycled water conversion due to the large amount of potable water used on its outdoor common areas and its proximity to a potential source of recycled water.

“It was easier here because we had the demand and a source nearby,” said Kim Thorner, Olivenhain’s general manager. “Ultimately, we would love it if all of the common areas in our district were irrigated with recycled water, so this is a very good step in that direction.”

Crews began work on the project in April, which included the installation of a pipeline that connected the joint powers authority system to the reservoir that runs under Via Cantebria, and the disconnection of the reservoir from Olivenhain’s potable water network.

Crews have also been working on the second phase of the project, the installation of hundreds of feet of pipeline from the reservoir. The recycled water will ultimately flow from the reservoir to a lift station that will propel the water up to Village Park, where it will snake through the network of pipes to the medians, parkways and publicly landscaped areas, as well as Flora Vista and Park Dale Lane elementary schools and Digueno Middle School.

The schools will receive the water first due to retrofitting its water systems to accommodate the recycled water, said George Briest, Olivenhain’s engineering manager.

The homeowner associations that were chosen are among the larger of Village Park’s 50 or so homeowners organizations and cover the majority of the community, Briest added, calling it the “low-hanging fruit.”

Village Park’s conversion is one of several projects that a coalition of 10 North County cities and water agencies have embarked on with the ambitious goal of increasing the amount of recycled water used in the region by 30,000 acre feet, which would free up an equal amount of drinking water for the drought-ravaged region, Thorner said.

“This drought has forced agencies to come up with creative ways to reduce our dependence on imported water and it is projects exactly like this that meet that need,” she said.

Encinitas Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who serves as the vice chairwoman of the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, echoed Thorner’s sentiments.

“When we do projects like this, we are not bringing in water from the Colorado River and the Sierras, and that is a great movement toward being a more sustainable city and a more sustainable region,” Blakespear said.