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Construction begins on recycled water treatment plant

PICO RIVERA — Ground was broken Sept. 22 to formally mark the beginning of construction on a high-tech $110 million treatment plant designed to purify recycled wastewater and reduce local dependence on imported water.

Officials of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California were joined by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Downey, for ceremonies on the five-acre site top build the district’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Project.

The project is expected to be completed in 2018.

District officials said the plant will recycle wastewater obtained from the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and purify it to federal and state safety standards, eliminating the need to import billions of gallons a year from Northern California and the Colorado River to replenish groundwater basins.

“Our development and use of local water supplies to eliminate the need for imported water didn’t happen overnight,” water district board treasurer Albert Robles said. “It took a decade of planning, investment and — above all — unwavering commitment. When people criticized us for pursuing this project during the rainy years, we held steadfast that our region needed leadership that would do right by future generations and not bow to political expediency.”

The district manages groundwater reserves for 43 cities in southern Los Angeles County, and uses about 250,000 acre-feet of water a year, or roughly 40 percent of its area’s demand. According to the district, it imports about 21,000 acre-feet of water, but the new plant will eliminate the need for any imports to recharge its basins.

The project “will help us guarantee that when residents in the southern portion of Los Angeles County, including the South Bay, turn on their faucets there will be water,” District Vice President Rob Katherman said. “The year-to-year and long-term availability of imported water is uncertain. As we have seen in seven of the last 10 years, our imported water supplies are vulnerable to drought and regulatory curtailment.”

Water district board member Sergio Calderon said the district has come a long way over six decades to finally reach full sustainability.

“Fifty-four years ago, [the district] used over 208,000 acre-feet of imported water pumped from the Colorado River for recharge in the spreading grounds,” Calderon said.

Now, the district imports only 21,000 acre feet of water. After the new facility is completed, there will be zero direct imports, Calderon said.

“What better gift could we give to the people during a drought than an assured source of water,” state Sen. Mendoza said.

Reflecting on the community amenities that will be built into the new plant, including the water science learning exhibit, Assemblywoman Garcia said she was looking forward to the day “when our third graders can learn from this facility and grow up to become water engineers and scientists.”