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EPA Awards $388M WIFIA Loan for Innovative Water Project

Water Reuse in San Diego County to Produce Purified Water

The demand for drinking water is high in California. Now a loan of $388 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to the East County Joint Powers Authority in San Diego County will help increase reliability in the drought-stressed region.

Producing purified water

Water reuse (or water recycling) reclaims water from a variety of sources then treats it for use in agriculture, industrial processes, potable water supplies, and more. The $388 million WIFIA loan to the East County Joint Powers Authority will be used for its Advanced Water Purification (AWP) Program to produce drinking water.

This is the first WIFIA loan awarded to the Program and marks the EPA’s largest loan awarded to projects in East San Diego County. It is also the second largest loan awarded in San Diego County.

Scheduled to be complete in 2025, the East County AWP Program aims to create a new, local, sustainable, and drought-proof drinking water supply.

“The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is the result of many years of strategic, long-term planning and this WIFIA loan marks a historic milestone in its development,” said Allen Carlisle, CEO general manager of Padre Dam Municipal Water District. “By providing East County with local control and independence of both its wastewater and water, the program secures a long-term solution for increased stability in our communities and safeguards the vitality of our economy and quality of life. We are grateful to the U.S. EPA for partnering with us on this important program and investing in future generations.”

Innovations and opportunities

The East County AWP Program uses state-of-the-art technology to purify and generate up to 11.5 million gallons per day of new drinking water, approximately 30% of the current drinking water demands for East San Diego County residents. 

The Program will use four advanced water purification steps to produce water that is near-distilled in quality. After the advanced water purification process, the purified water will be blended with water in the Lake Jennings Reservoir, the county’s local drinking water supply source, and then treated again at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant before being distributed as drinking water. When fully operational, it’s expected that the project will treat up to 16 million gallons of wastewater per day.

“The East County Advanced Water Purification Program is unique and forward- thinking in so many ways,” said East County Chair and City of El Cajon Councilmember Steve Gobel. “One reason, in particular, is the unprecedented collaboration of four East San Diego County entities which have come together with the common goal of water reliability at a competitive cost to imported water and the treatment of wastewater. The low-cost WIFIA loan is instrumental in enabling this important Program to make financial sense to achieve these goals for the residents and communities we serve.”

The EPA’s WIFIA loan will finance nearly half of the $791 million East County AWP Program. This investment is also expected to create an estimated 2,500 local preconstruction and operation jobs.

Aimed to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program administered by EPA. This loan to the East County Joint Powers Authority is among 51 WIFIA loans that are providing nearly $10 billion in credit assistance to help finance almost $21 billion for water infrastructure across the country while also creating approximately 51,000 jobs and saving ratepayers nearly $4.5 billion.  

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