Bird Rock Council considers waste-water recycling, unleashed dog problem


Inaugural Bird Rock ‘Summer Walk’


Art galleries will be open late, chalk art, live music, hors d’oeuvres and libations


5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, July 25


Bird Rock business district on La Jolla Boulevard


By Pat Sherman

During its July 2 meeting, the Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) heard a presentation on the city’s plan to purify waste water from homes and businesses for human consumption — a project commonly (and derisively) referred to as toilet-to-tap.

Peter Martin, a senior water resources specialist with the San Diego Public Utilities Department, discussed the project, which involves building a reclamation plant and related infrastructure that the city estimates will cost about $369 million.

Though there was much backlash to the proposal when the city first proposed it a decade ago, Martin said a nearly identical system has been used successfully for the past five years in Orange County, and public support for recycled waste water is slowly growing statewide.

Last summer, San Diego completed a one-year test of its proposed waste water reclamation system at the city’s Water Purification Demonstration Project plant near UTC.

The demonstration plant produced about 1 million gallons of recycled waste water per day during the trial, which was tested before being put back into the regular recycling system for use in irrigation and industry.

Martin said results of the one-year waste water recycling demonstration found that the “overall water quality was exceptional,” “very similar to distilled water” and “met all the drinking water standards required by the state permitting authorities.”

The proposal involves construction of an Advanced Water Purification Facility where normally treated waste water would undergo additional membrane filtration, UV radiation and reverse osmosis, as it did during the demonstration phase.

Martin said the water is tested between each filtration step to assure each process is working as intended.

The project would provide about 8 to 10 percent of the city’s water supply — or about 15 million gallons per day during the first phase, he said (a report by the Equinox Center estimates the project could eventually produce as much as 40 percent of the city’s water supply).

Factoring in water treated at the proposed Carlsbad desalination plant (which Martin said would provide about 7 percent of the region’s water supply), such alternative water purification projects would significantly reduce the region’s reliance on water imported from Northern California (the cost of which Martin said has doubled in the past decade, and will likely double again in the next 10 years).

“That has a lot to do with aging infrastructure … (as well as) the increasing cost of energy (required) to pump that water down to Southern California,” he said. “The deltas and levies up in Northern California need a lot of repair.”

Martin said the city council is still grappling with how to fund the project, which will cost about $2,000 per acre-foot of water, or a little less than the Carlsbad desalination project (about $2,300 per acre foot).

However, officials estimate the project would eventually save taxpayers $1 billion by eliminating required upgrades to the Point Loma waste water plant.

“Yes, it is going to be expensive, but that’s something that we all have to think about,” Martin said. “We’re getting close to where imported water costs are very similar to what this technology would cost.”

Asked how the recycled waste water compares to current San Diego supplies — deemed one of the 10 worst in the country in a 2011 report due to the number of contaminants in it — Martin said, “I don’t want to say it’s a better quality — but it would be a good quality. Because it has such low mineral content, it may help people’s washers and dryers or dishwashers last longer.”

He added, “There’s a lot of municipalities around the state that are dealing with (water quality) issues that are way worse than ours.”

The demonstration facility is open for tours. To schedule one, call (619) 533-7572 or visit

In more BRCC news

Unleashed dogs

: BRCC President Jacqueline Bell reported several instances of unleashed dogs during the past two months, including large unleashed dogs at Calumet Park.

“I know a family that was pretty much driven out of the park (that) had two small children with them,” she said. “They were trying to picnic and there were these large, boisterous dogs off-leash that were frightening the kids. … The owner of the dogs told the person with the small children that he needed to take his children out of the park.”

In addition, Bell said a woman was bitten by a dog in Bird Rock and had to go to the hospital for antibiotics.

“There wasn’t much we could to in that instance, other than the sort of a routine quarantine of the dog,” she said, noting that there had been a previous incident with that dog, though it was not reported to police.

“Because that first incident was not reported, animal services’ hands were somewhat tied,” Bell said. “So, if there is an incident please report it so it gets documented. Then, if there is a subsequent incident there’s going to be stronger action taken.”

Vandalism of bench

: Board member Barbara Dunbar said a bench in front of Lupi Italian restaurant at 5518 La Jolla Blvd. has been vandalized four times in the past two years. “If anyone knows anything about it, we’d appreciate an e-mail ( or somebody talking to us privately, if you have any idea what happened,” she said.

Plant replacement

: Dunbar said BRCC is replacing some plants in the medians and roundabouts that grew taller than allowed by the city, as soon as the weather is cooler, and more suitable for planting.

The city has a 26- to 30-inch maximum height limit, Dunbar said. “The whole purpose was safety for pedestrians, safety for drivers and to make it look good,” she said.

Summer picnic

: BRCC’s annual summer picnic at Calumet Park will be held in lieu of the August meeting.

The event, hosted by Beaumont’s Eatery, is from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 13. The cost is $10 per person.