East Bay lawmaker touts water bill with recycling plant as backdrop
Aug. 12--OAKLEY -- Though it may not stop the state's Twin Tunnels project from diverting Delta water down south, Congressman Jerry McNerney hopes his new bill to invest in recycling projects will ensure water districts are frugal with the essential, but limited resource.
"While the governor is proposing these tunnels, what I'm proposing would create all the water that the tunnels would provide at a lot less cost," McNerney said. "There's a better solution that makes sense, would provide all the water, and be sustainable."
The WEST Act, or Water and Energy Sustainability through Technology Act, would put $12 billion into circulation for competitive grants that would go toward innovative recycled water projects.
On Friday, McNerney visited the Ironhouse Sanitary District to discuss his legislation and to tour the district's state-of-the-art wastewater recycling facility that has been getting attention for its unique approach that produces some of the cleanest water in the state.
Chad Davisson, general manager for the Ironhouse Sanitary District, touted his facility's membrane bioreactor basins and ultraviolet disinfection process.
"We look at what the end use of the water is and we're trying to find the highest and best use to the community," Davisson said.
The facility recycles approximately 4.3 million gallons of wastewater a day and can recycle 8 million gallons a day at peak capacity. Half of the water goes out to Jersey Island to irrigate ISD's hay fields. Some gets used by residents at the free recycled water fill station, but Davisson has seen increasingly fewer people coming in after drought restrictions were lifted.
"In my two years here, I've seen one of the most significant droughts and one of the most significant rain events," Davisson said. "It is interesting to see how quickly people forget that water sustainability is an ongoing challenge."
Davisson and the ISD staff are looking to the future when Oakley sees more development on its East Cypress Corridor project which is slated to add 5,759 homes, shopping centers, three schools and a fire station on Hotchkiss Tract.
The sanitary district also is looking to work with Diablo Water District on re-injecting recycled water into the ground to recharge groundwater basins.
Under the WEST Act, reimbursements would be available for water recycling projects as well as increased water storage and stormwater capture projects.
McNerney said his bill may take a while to gain steam, but he sees areas of collaboration between the north and the south, such as with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who wants to make Los Angeles self-sustainable by 2030.
"When we develop regional self-sufficiency it means there will be less demand on the Delta," McNerney said. "We don't need new tunnels, we need purple pipes."
Companion legislation introduced in June, the Western Water Recycling and Drought Relief Act, would fund 23 regional water recycling projects, three of which would be in the Ironhouse Sanitary District.