EPA loan presented
The EPA’s Radhika Fox presents a sign with the loan amount to Kyle Swanson, director of the water project, at the demonstration plant. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The third large drinking water recycling facility planned for San Diego County received a low-interest $388 million federal loan on Friday to jump-start the project.

The East County Advanced Water Purification Program will recycle waste water to produce up to 11.5 million purified gallons a day — 30% of the region’s supply — beginning in 2025.

The project at the north end of the string of Santee Lakes is a joint effort by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, city of El Cajon, Helix Water District and San Diego County.

It comes as California and the southwestern United States faces a serious drought, with deliveries from the Colorado River under pressure.

“The fact that we rely on that source for 50% of our water concerns us,” said Allen Carlisle, CEO and general manager of the Padre Dam District. “We’re at the end of the pipeline.”

The East County project is similar to the Pure Water recycling plants already under construction in San Diego and Oceanside. San Diego’s project is bigger at 30 million gallons per day, while Oceanside’s is smaller at 5 million.

Radhika Fox of the Environmental Protection Agency was on hand to present the loan approval. She said the fact that there are three big projects underway is “an example of San Diego’s leadership” in water supply investment.

“EPA is proud to partner on this project, which uses proven technology to bolster drinking water supplies in this climate-stressed region,” she said.

The purified water from the plant with be blended with the supply at Lake Jennings and then treated again before being distributed as drinking water.

In addition to providing a local water supply, the project will eliminate the need to send most of East County’s wastewater to San Diego’s aging Pt. Loma treatment plant for discharge into the ocean.

Chris Jennewein

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