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Water district unveils plans for treatment plant

PICO RIVERA — The Water Replenishment District of Southern California Nov. 3 unveiled the design for a $95 million water treatment plant here.

When operational in 2018, the plant will recycle an estimated 10,000 acre feet of water a year, General Manager Rob Whitaker said.

An acre foot is about 330,300 gallons.

That will make the district — the groundwater manager for four million Los Angeles  County residents — totally independent of costly imported water, Whitaker said.

Besides reducing local costs, the project will help other areas suffering from drought by leaving more water for them via the Northern California pipeline and the Colorado River, where the district now imports its outside water, district President Sergio Calderon said.

“Today we make more history by continuing our march” to water independence, a long-time plan of the 54-year-old agency, Calderon said.

Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, was the guest speaker, along with Assemblyman Edward Chau, D-Monterey Park.

They were honored for their work pushing through legislation for a $7.5 billion state water bond, approved by voters, which will help fund the local project.

“Today we get to see the fruits of our labor after an 18-month battle,” Rendon said. “The water bill was approved with 72 votes in the Assembly.”

“In the past, the effort was to convey water here from long distances. Now we can make it a local effort. We must rely on local solutions,” he added.

Chau said “this is an historic day. This will be the first part of the state to obtain water sustainability.”

“No matter what the weather brings, we will have water for our customers, and we will save engery,” water district board member Rob Katherman said.

“This plant will be great for our city and for the region,” said Pico Rivera Councilman Gustavo Camacho, who is also president of the California Contract Cities Association.

Several hundred area officials attended the unveiling in a former warehouse on San Gabriel Parkway that has been purchased by the Water Replenishment District.

The building, which sits along the San Gabriel River, will be demolished to make room for the water recycling plant.

Once treated, the water will be spread along the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers to trickle down into aquifers of the Central and West Basins, which cover most of southern Los Angeles County.

KCET anchor Val Zavala  emceed the event.

“Water will be the new oil,” said Zavala, referring to its value to the public.

The treatment plant will take locally available, less costly wastewater, purify it and use that recycled water to replenish the vast groundwater basins.

The Water Replenishment District, based in Lakewood, was created by the state 54 years ago and oversees two of the nation’s most utilized urban groundwater basins — the Central and West Basins.

Forty percent of the water used by four million residents in 43 south Los Angeles County cities comes from the groundwater in those basins.

The Water Replenishment District service area stretches from Exposition Park to Long Beach and from Whittier to the Pacific Ocean. Ten percent of the state’s population is served by the district.

It currently purchases outside water to replenish water pumped from the two basins by city and private providers. The providers are charged $283 per acre foot based on water they pump out to customers.

Whitaker said that rate should remain stable with the reduction of outside water purchases.