U.S. Water News Online
PERRIS, Calif. -- Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD)
plans to start construction this summer on a desalination plant that
could recover more than 3 million gallons a day of currently unusable
groundwater beneath the Interstate 215 corridor.
"We will be taking a resource that is unusable by anyone and
turning it into a valuable commodity," said John Brudin, general
manager of EMWD. "This will allow us to reduce our dependence on
costly, imported water and help us to continue to avoid rate
increases while protecting a valuable resource."
Eastern hasn't raised its water rates since 1996.
Salinity of groundwater in parts of the Menifee Valley is several
times the maximum allowed for drinking water and is not even usable
for agriculture in many cases. "It is that unusable water which
modern advances in technology now allow us to pump, treat, and use
again," Mike Garner, EMWD resource development administrator, noted.
"That also protects other underground water in the region from
further rises in salt levels."
Garner said the groundwater salinity problem is partially the
result of naturally occurring elements in the soil and partially due
to human activity.
"Underground water flowing west from the San Jacinto Mountains
historically has picked up salts from the soil that have made the
water less desirable the further west you go," Garner commented. "Add
the mix of human activity that has occurred along the I-215 corridor
during the past hundred years, and then the reduction in the '60s and
'70s of agricultural pumping in the corridor, and you wind up with
increased salts that are trapped in a rising pool of unusable water
that also threatens better quality water nearby."
Groundwater salinity problems in EMWD's service area extend from
Menifee northward through Perris and toward Moreno Valley, following
the I-215 corridor. Eastern expects to build two more desalination
plants in its service area in the next few years.
The second desalter is planned for the northeast part of Perris
and would have a similar three million-gallon per day capacity. A
third 3-MGD desalination facility may be built in the Winchester
Efficient use of a desalination facility depends on the district
operating wells where the unusable groundwater is located, then
moving that brackish water by pipelines to the actual desalter.
Eastern is currently working to establish wells that will supply the
Menifee Valley unit, located on district property in Sun City, with
water that can't otherwise be used.
All three desalters could eventually enable Eastern to remove 12
million of more gallons a day of unusable water from local aquifers
while adding about nine million gallons of drinking water to its
domestic water system daily. The other three million gallons is the
undesirable waste material that will be removed from the groundwater
and transported out of the area by way of a brine disposal pipeline.
The projects, when completed, will help protect groundwater in
parts of the Menifee Valley, Perris area and the Lakeview-Nuevo area.
EMWD provides water, wastewater, and recycled water service to
about 435,000 people in a 555-square mile area of western Riverside
County running along the I-215 corridor from Moreno Valley southward
to Temecula and eastward to Hemet and San Jacinto.
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