Sweetwater Authority employees stand in front of reverse osmosis filters in the Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Sweetwater Authority employees stand in front of reverse-osmosis filters in the Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The Sweetwater Authority broke ground Tuesday on a $42 million expansion of its groundwater desalination plant in Chula Vista that will double output to 10 million gallons daily.

The Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility, which opened in 1999, turns brackish water from local wells into drinkable water. The expansion will include additional wells and more reverse-osmosis equipment to double the capacity.

Patricia Aguilar holds a glass in front of reverse-osmosis filters.

“It’s local. It’s not subject to the drought. It doesn’t have to be imported from Colorado. Go Sweetwater!” said Chula Vista City Council Member Patricia Aguilar, in whose district the plant is located.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison praised the authority for investing in reliable local water sources, including other wells and two reservoirs, instead of just buying imported water.

“This drought’s not over and it won’t be the last drought,” he told a crowd of political and business leaders gathered for the groundbreaking.

Ernesto Zamudio, chairman of the authority, said 75 percent of the construction costs are being covered by federal and state grants. When the work is completed in 2017, he said, it will save the authority $2 million a year over the cost of imported water.

The City of San Diego is also contributing to the project, which will ultimately supply 2 percent of San Diego’s water.

The plant is one of three in San Diego County. Oceanside has a similar groundwater desalination facility and the giant Carlsbad seawater plant — the largest in the Western hemisphere — is set to come on line later this year.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.