LA will soon use less imported H20, thanks to new water treatment

An architectural rendering of the water treatment plant site to be built in Pico Rivera.
An architectural rendering of the water treatment plant site to be built in Pico Rivera.
Water Replenishment District

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Los Angeles is getting a new, high-tech wastewater recycling plant to recharge groundwater supplies. It will help the region cut back on its use of expensive imported water.

On Tuesday, officials with the Southern California Water Replenishment District unveiled plans for the $95 million facility in Pico Rivera.

After it is completed in 2018, the district will no longer need to buy water imported from hundreds of miles away to recharge its basins.

Currently, WRD gets about 21,000 acre feet of water a year from the Northern California and the Colorado River aqueducts.

(A map showing where the waste water plant will be located as well as other areas associated with the project. Image via Water Replenishment District.)

In parts of LA County, as much as 40 percent of urban water comes from underground aquifers.

The problem is, if the region pumps too much of that water, the aquifers can get dangerously low and sea-water can seep in which can contaminate the supply.

Since 1959, the Water Replenishment District has been tasked with pumping water back in to the ground to maintain safe levels.

Since rain isn’t reliable, especially during a drought, a lot of that replacement H20 comes from aqueducts, says Robb Whitaker with the WRD.

"That water has to come over great distances," he explained. That makes the water expensive and vulnerable to droughts in other areas.

"This project, it will provide long-term rate stability because the cost of this water is so much more predictable," he said.

The plant is part of a larger effort dubbed the Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program or "GRIP."

This new treatment plant will recycle about 10,000 acre feet of wastewater a year. WRD will also get an additional 11,000 acre feet from a different recycling plant to replace the amount of water currently coming from distant sources.

That water combined with other recycled H20 and runoff from the occasional storm should total about 125,000 acre feet a year, the amount necessary to maintain safe ground water basin levels.

(A chart showing the breakdown of water used to replenish aquifers before the new facility (left) and after its completion (right). The water supplied by the new plant is shown in purple. Image from the Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California.)

WRD says crews will start working on the new facility in about 60 days.