South Bay officials celebrate federal grant for desalination facility

South Bay officials celebrate federal grant for desalination facility

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Washington, DC, July 24, 2015 | By Pablo J. Sáinz of La Prensa San Diego | comments

Amid the state drought, local officials from the South Bay are cheering a federal grant that will expand a desalination facility that will benefit the area by increasing the drinking water available.

Congresswoman Susan Davis made the announcement earlier this week of a $5.2 million Department of Interior grant for the Sweetwater Authority that will increase the desalination capabilities of the Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility from 3,600 acre-feet per year (AFY) of water to 8,000 AFY.

The water produced by the facility provides drinking water to residents of South Bay communities like Bonita, Chula Vista, and National City. Also, the City of San Diego is partnering with the Sweetwater Authority and will receive half of the water produced.

“Increasing sources of reliable drinking water and our region’s water independence must be a priority,” Davis said. “California is in the grips of a historic drought and improving our water infrastructure will be key to surviving this drought and any future water shortages.”

Earlier this year, Representatives Duncan Hunter, Scott Peters, and Juan Vargas, joined Davis in sending a letter to the Department of Interior urging the federal grant funding for Sweetwater.

The desalination facility expansion is estimated to cost $42 million and 75 percent of the project is funded by state and federal grants, said Leslie Payne, public affairs manager fort the Sweetwater Authority, which owns and operates the facility located in Chula Vista.

“California is in a water crisis and the federal government should aid communities that are working proactively to address their water issues,” Davis said.

The facility, in operation since 1999, is designed to produce about five million gallons per day of treated water; the expansion will increase the amount to 10 million gallons per day.

Local elected officials in the South Bay celebrated the grant announcement.

“This is great news as this expanded capability of the plant will ensure more supply of a precious resource for Chula Vista and our residents,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “This is especially the case with some of the current drilling projects that Sweetwater is doing in Chula Vista that would benefit from this facility expansion by being able to process five million gallons per day in capacity.”

The desalination facility draws brackish groundwater from six wells grouped near the Sweetwater River, treats the water using a reverse osmosis filtration process, delivers the water to the distribution system, and discharges the resulting brine into the Sweetwater River.

“In a time when this exceptional drought has constricted water supplies, this ground water desalination project will give our District a level of water supply reliability enjoyed by very few in our region,” said National City Mayor Ron Morrison.

The expansion project includes the construction of five additional wells in the vicinity and also relocates the concentrate disposal pipeline that serves the facility, which assures continued compliance with federal and California water quality regulations.

“Despite the rains this weekend, our region remains in a drought and this grant will help boost the drinking water supply for South County on an on-going basis,” said San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox. That’s a real asset.”

To learn more about the Richard A. Reynolds Desalination Facility, please visit

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