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San Diego approves plan to recycle wastewater for drinking water

A $3.5bn (£2.2bn) scheme to recycle wastewater into drinking water has been approve unanimously by San Diego's City Council. With California in the grips of a severe drought, it is understood that the recycling scheme will supply a third of San Diego's daily drinking water needs by 2035, as well as save on wastewater treatment costs.

The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (WwTP) currently pumps around 180 million gallons of sewage daily as it serves 2.2 million people across 16 municipalities. Following treatment, the sewage is discharged offshore into the Pacific.

Under the Pure Water Plan, San Diego agrees to create 50 million gallons a day of potable water by 2023, and 83 million gallons a day by 2035.  This will be achieved through a number of schemes including the construction of water purification facilities, continued operation of the test Advanced Water Purification Facility, research on additional treatment barriers for a potential direct potable reuse project, and regulation and legislation development. 

San Diego's mayor, Kevin Faulconer, described the scheme as "innovative and ambitious" but would give the city the ability to control its own water supply for the first time. "That water would be a reliable, drought-resistant supply and far less expensive than our current imported water. It's a commons sense approach."

Faulconer added that the Point Loma WwTP required "billions of dollars of unnecessary upgrades". He said: "If we spend those billions it wouldn't provide a single drop of extra water for San Diego."

Instead, the money will be spent on three different water purification facilities that will divert wastewater away from the Point Loma plant, he said.

Speaking on news channel NBC 7, public utilities director Halla Razak commented: "Half of the flow that goes to Point Loma will be diverted, treated and then re-used. So the impact to the environment is definitely positive.

"When you look at the wastewater and the water costs, this is the right solution for San Diego. It's not only more economical, but it provides a local supply that is sustainable and drought-proof."

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