Orange County, Calif., received approval from water and wastewater officials for the first phase of a $600 million project that will produce up to 140,000 acre feet of near distilled water through membrane purification from treated sewer water.
The Groundwater Replenishment System will produce water for replenishment of the county's large groundwater basin, helping to make the area less dependent on water from northern California, the Santa Ana River and the Colorado River.
The Groundwater Replenishment System will take treated sewer water and, through microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection, produce near distilled quality water. The water will then be pumped through a 13-mile pipeline to spreading basins where it will blend with Orange County's other sources.
The Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District are partners in this joint venture, which was approved by both boards of directors. The first phase of the project will cost $352 million and will help the county meet the future water demands of a growing region. The project is expected to be online in 2005.
Phase One of the Groundwater Replenishment System will produce 70,000 acre feet of water per year, enough to satisfy the annual water needs of 140,000 families. The water will be so pure that it will reverse a growing mineral content problem in the basin caused by filling the groundwater basin with Colorado River water.
Producing water through the GWR System requires half of the energy it takes to pump water to Orange County from northern California. Phase One of the project will save about 140 million kilowatt hours each year, enough electricity to serve more than 21,000 homes.
"The Groundwater Replenishment System provides us with the water diversity we will need should any one of our current sources be reduced," said Irv Pickler, chair of the Joint Cooperative Committee of the Groundwater Replenishment System. "The GWR system also helps 'drought proof' Orange County, which is critical for a semi-arid region like Southern California."