LONG BEACH, Calif. — California’s historic drought is compelling a shift at a Long Beach water treatment facility to achieve big groundwater gains.
The Water Replenishment District just finished construction on a project that will use recycled water to protect and even increase the drinking water supply. This groundwater agency serves about four million people across southern Los Angeles County.
Today its appearance is hardly remarkable, but big equipment had to go up before they could dig down deep, hundreds of feet, to construct the inland injection well at the Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment Facility. This project marks the start of a new era at the facility, one that the general manager of the Water Replenishment District, Stephan Tucker, came out of retirement to witness.
“Yeah, that’s how much I love water,” Tucker said.
At the Long Beach facility, they take treated wastewater from the LA County Sanitation District, run it through multiple pieces of equipment making it almost as clean as drinking water, then pump it into wells meant to protect the groundwater from seawater intrusion. With this first inland injection well, there’s a clear move from reactive to proactive because water pumped through this well will go through a final, natural purification step — filtered by the earth — and then recharge the aquifer.
In other words, it’s a maneuver to increase the drinking water supply.
“It is a lot of work to put it back in the ground, but the safety standards are so high for drinking water that we have to go through this very extensive process,” Tucker said.
Tucker relies on a team to monitor the equipment both online and in person. That includes operator Davis Peters. He collects and tests water samples. You might consider him a different kind of first responder.
“A lot of the times you know it’s smooth sailing, but things happen suddenly without warning so we just have to jump into action and figure out what went wrong,” Peters said.
Adding something new will come with more responsibility. Ultimately, it will lead to importing less water from severely depleted sources such as the Colorado River.
“Water is life. It’s extremely vital. I mean, without clean, reliable water, we don’t have life in Southern California,” Tucker said.