ESCONDIDO—In an attempt to lessen the cost of water for agriculture, the Utilities Water Division is expanding its recycled water pipeline to the intersection between Mountain View Drive and Cloverdale Road.
City Council approved the project on Sept. 24.
The project is part of the Agricultural Recycled Water and Potable Reuse Program, which was approved in February.
Recycled water is cheaper than potable water and the project will generate revenue in the long term in both recycled water sales and hopefully potable water sales, according to Christopher McKinney, director of Utilities.
McKinney hopes the infrastructure to produce potable water eventually goes into place, although it won’t be in the plans for years.
The recycled water pipeline will be extended along the Escondido Creek between North Broadway and Citrus Avenue.
Eventually the line will be extended to the Hogback recycled water tank, near Mountain View Drive, which is mostly used for agriculture.
The tank currently houses potable water but will be repurposed to hold recycled water and a smaller potable water tank will be built.
Officials budgeted $6.276 million for the 24-inch pipeline and awarded the contract to MNR Construction, Inc. The funds come out of the Capital Improvements Projects reserves and income the utilities department expects to get over the next four years.
McKinney also said the utilities department plans to take out Clean Water State Revolving Fund loans to pay for the project. The timing is right, said McKinney, because the interest rate for recycled water projects is extremely low. The rate is one percent.
“It’d be financially beneficial to the fund to borrow money cheaply now and save our cash for later, when we might need to reduce the amount we borrowed because the borrowing is more expensive, rather than spend our cash now and be stuck borrowing at a higher rate later,” said McKinney
Currently the division has $24.5 million in cash on hand.
City Council approved the application for a loan but Mayor Sam Abed cautioned the city not to take out too many loans simply because the city’s bond rating is low.
“If the interest rate is low, it should not encourage us to just borrow and borrow. I understand the timing is good for this particular project and I think we need to move carefully in not adding too much debt,” said Abed.
As a part of the pipeline expansion, a brine line will also be added. Since the public utilities are going to be constructing a pipeline, it’s cost effective to add the brine line at the same time, according to McKinney.
A brine line serves to dispose of spent salt.
Council also approved the design of a micro-filtration and reverse osmosis facility. The contract was awarded to Black and Veatch Corporation for $1.2 million.
The facility will be built between El Norte Parkway and Washington Avenue on a piece of land the Utilities department already owns.
The facility will filter re-usable water so it can be used for avocado growing. Avocados are sensitive to salt so the water produced at the facility will need to have a low salt content, said McKinney.
It will also serve as a potable reuse pilot test site in the future. More filtration infrastructure would be needed down the road and the facility provides the space for it.
The City of Escondido should be commended for moving ahead with expansion of their reclaimed water system and potentially developing a system that produces potable water from wastewater, as San Diego is planning to do. Water is too valuable to waste!
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