Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is making a major investment in its Regional Recycled Water Program to produce a new sustainable, high-quality water supply for Southern California and relieve pressure on the over-stressed Colorado River. Now, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project have agreed to contribute up to $6 million to environmental planning for the program that will purify and reuse the region’s largest untapped source of wastewater, currently being sent to the ocean.
“This project could help the entire Southwest. We know that eliminating the supply-demand imbalance that threatens the Colorado River will take both reducing demand, through conservation, and adding new supplies, like recycled water,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil.
The initial investment from Arizona could lead to a long-term agreement with the agencies to help fund the project’s construction and operation, helping offset project costs for Metropolitan — in exchange for Colorado River water, Hagekhalil said.
“We are eager to further our partnership with the Metropolitan Water District to collaboratively explore and develop opportunities to improve the long-term reliability and resiliency of our shared resource — the Colorado River,” said Central Arizona Project General Manager Ted Cooke.
“Increasing the reuse of recycled water is critical to augmenting water supplies and creating a more resilient Colorado River,” said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.
This latest agreement reinforces the commitment between California and Arizona to work together to develop solutions on the Colorado River. This partnership, together with Metropolitan’s collaboration with Nevada, will be critical as the Colorado River Basin states begin to create new operating guidelines for the river. Expanding the value of the Regional Recycled Water Program to the entire Southwest could also help earn federal financial support for the project.
Metropolitan says the $3.4-billion project would build resilience for the region by:
- Producing a drought-proof source of water, readily available rain or shine
- Replenishing groundwater basins, which provide 30 percent of Southern California’s water supply and have seen levels drop to historic lows in recent years
- Helping to meet the needs of the region’s growing economy and population at a cost comparable to other local water resources
- Preparing the Southland for the event of a catastrophic earthquake by increasing local water supplies
Metropolitan’s district encompasses 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. The entity has already constructed a 500,000-gallon-per-day demonstration facility that began operations in 2019.