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District eyes building huge recycling plant
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California’s largest water provider said it’s looking into partnering with sanitation districts to create what officials say could be one of the world’s largest systems for recycling sewage water.

Tentative plans for creating what could be a $1 billion system to purify and reuse as much as 168,000 acre-feet of water a year were presented Monday at a committee meeting of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

On average, an acre-foot of water, or 326,000 gallons, is enough to serve two households for a year.

Creating such a system would require that MWD build a treatment plant and facilities that would meet various environmental regulations, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The proposal comes in the fourth year of one of the worst droughts on record in California and during a time when the state’s cities are under orders to reduce water consumption by 25 percent. If implemented, it would transform MWD from a supplier of water obtained from other sources to one that also develops its own supplies.

“I’m not afraid of talking about another business model,” the agency’s board chairman, Randy Record, said. “None of us should be.”

The agency currently provides water from a variety of sources to 26 public agencies in six counties. Its water reaches more than 19 million people.

MWD staffers are asking that the agency’s 37-member board enter into an agreement with two dozen sanitation agencies by November to look into the feasibility of a recycling project.

If the MWD gives that approval, officials say a demonstration project could be launched in about 20 months that would purify about a million gallons of water a day.

Such a project would cost about $15 million, said MWD Assistant General Manager Debra Man, some of which could come from water bond money approved by voters last year.

The cost, and the need for such a project, raised concerns among the board’s San Diego County representatives.

“We do not understand — and the board memo does not explain — why MWD believes a new recycled water program is necessary,” San Diego members wrote in a letter to the full board.