Pure Water San Diego demonstration plant
The Pure Water San Diego demonstration plan in Miramar. Courtesy of the city

San Diego lawmakers in Sacramento are preparing an emergency bill to stave off a legal challenge to San Diego’s $650 million recycled drinking water project.

Assemblymember Todd Gloria, with the support of Senate President Toni Atkins, is moving forward Assembly Bill 1290 to end a legal challenge over the use of union labor to construct the Pure Water San Diego recycling plant.

The innovative city project will provide one-third of the city’s water supply — approximately 83 million gallons per day — by 2035 using proven technology to recycle waste water. Construction was set to start on the first phase, but has been stalled by the dispute.

“In the midst of climate change and seemingly endless droughts, Pure Water is critical to our water supply reliability and conservation goals,” said Gloria on Friday. “Right now, this major investment is in jeopardy with millions of taxpayer dollars at stake.”

Gloria said his legislation will “save this project from almost certain failure and get it back on track.”

Since late June, the project has been stalled due to litigation claiming the project violates Proposition A — a 2012 ballot measure that prevents the city from mandating union labor on construction except when required by state or federal law. AB 1290 would end the legal dispute by making such an agreement a condition of receiving state funds.

The project’s cost is expected to increase by $4 million for each month of delay beyond August. Additionally, without legal certainty, the city could lose $647 million from the State Water Resources Control Board and could receive significant fines if it does not meet key milestones set by regulators.

“We have the opportunity to serve as a model on water recycling for the rest of the country, but we must act quickly,” said Atkins. “Further delays on the Pure Water project threaten its viability and needlessly waste taxpayer dollars.”

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Chris Jennewein

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