Mayor Jerry Sanders said today that he will not support a plan to augment the city’s reservoirs with treated sewage, a plan that City Attorney Mike Aguirre has attempted to revive as a potentially valuable new water source.

The mayor said he would oppose any efforts to begin recycling the city’s sewage, saying that the technology to do so was too expensive and not supported by city residents.

Sanders said he would not revisit the issue if water cutbacks from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are more severe than projected. A federal judge in Fresno issued a ruling Aug. 31 that water suppliers say could reduce exports from the delta by 37 percent next year. The mayor said the timeframe of implementing water reuse wouldn’t help bridge any short-term water supply gaps.

“It’s clearly a long-term issue,” Sanders said. “It’s not something I’m going to address at all over the next several years.”

Sanders did not dispute the science that shows recycling sewage can be a safe source of drinking water. Millions of gallons of treated sewage are dumped into the Colorado River upriver from San Diego’s pumps. But the mayor said the costs of educating the public and building necessary infrastructure would make recycled water too expensive.

In a report, the Mayor’s Office estimated that recycled water would cost between $1,600 and $1,882 for each acre foot — a measurement equal to an acre of land covered in a foot of water (or about 326,000 gallons.)

The city’s supply of drinking water costs about a third: $679 per acre foot.

“This is not a cost-efficient alternative,” Sanders said.

Aguirre, who held a press conference after the mayor, did not dispute the higher cost. But he said the importance of securing San Diego’s water supply, which is largely reliant on imported sources of water from the Colorado River and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, should trump the additional costs.

“If it costs us money to gain a level of water independence,” Aguirre said, “I think it’s money well-spent.”


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