Rancho Santa Fe water district takes steps to extend recycled water agreement


By Joe Tash

The Santa Fe Irrigation District is on track to extend its agreement for the purchase of recycled water, which is transported through a system of purple pipes separate from the drinking water supply and used for landscape irrigation and industrial purposes.

At its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17, the Santa Fe Irrigation District board voted unanimously in favor of a draft agreement with the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, which runs a wastewater treatment plant in Encinitas. Santa Fe Irrigation District’s current contract to buy recycled water from San Elijo runs through 2019, and the new agreement would extend it to 30 years, with two 30-year renewal options, according to district officials and a staff report.

“We need to lock this supply up,” said Santa Fe Irrigation District General Manager Michael Bardin.

The agreement also commits San Elijo to provide the Santa Fe Irrigation District with 620-acre-feet of recycled water per year, up from the district’s current annual average purchase of 525-acre-feet. An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.

According to the Santa Fe Irrigation District’s web site, it currently provides recycled water to customers in Solana Beach, including the Lomas Santa Fe Golf Course and San Dieguito County Park. The district also seeks to expand its base of customers for recycled water, which reduces demand on the district’s potable — or drinking — water supply, said the website.

The San Elijo wastewater treatment system is co-owned by the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas. It produces some 1,200- to 1,300-acre-feet of recycled water per year, so under the new agreement, the Santa Fe Irrigation District will be purchasing roughly half of San Elijo’s output.

The new agreement calls for no price increase in 2014, a 3.5 percent increase in July 2015, and future prices to be set based on cost of service.

San Elijo JPA General Manager Mike Thornton attended Thursday’s Santa Fe board meeting.

“The intent of this agreement is to show a commitment to the Santa Fe Irrigation District for a long-term water supply,” said Thornton.

San Elijo’s target is to price recycled water, which receives three rounds of treatment, at 85 percent of the price of potable water, Thornton said.

Recycled water makes up about 4 percent of the water sold by the Santa Fe Irrigation District to its customers, said the district’s web site.