LOS ANGELES — Water is the lifeblood of our planet and is vital to every aspect of human survival.

What You Need To Know

  • Pure Water Southern California is expected to come online in 2032

  • The advanced water treatment facility will be able to produce up to 150 million gallons a day, enough to meet the needs of 1.5 million people

  • The recent winter storm has brought a lot of water that has the potential to be captured and stored underground to replenish groundwater basins. To help capture this precipitation, the Department of Water Resources has awarded funding to several projects over the past three years through various grant programs such as the Integrated Regional Water Management Program, Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program and the Urban Community Drought Relief Program

  • Last year, the Department’s Sustainable Groundwater Management awarded $187 million in funding for 103 individual projects that enhance groundwater monitoring, water-use efficiency, groundwater recharge, recycled water and water quality, including more than $160 million that will directly benefit tribes and underrepresented communities

But climate change affects our access to this necessary resource, causing more severe droughts and floods.

"Climate change has really impacted our water supplies," Rupam Soni said.

The race to create a climate-resilient water supply couldn't be more dire to Soni — the community relations team manager at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

"We need to create new water supplies that are climate independent, and that's what Pure Water Southern California is. It's taking water we're already using and purifying it so we could reuse it," Soni said.

Creating a drinking water supply is a new frontier for Metropolitan, which was formed in 1928 to import water from the Colorado River to drought-prone Southern California and later from Northern California.

The wholesaler delivers water to 26 member agencies. 

Still, climate change has strained these resources, with the alarm blaring in 2021 when the federal government declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River.

So, to adapt to these changing times, Metropolitan is investing in Pure Water. 

When it's fully operational, it will be one of the largest water recycling programs in the world.

"The heart of our innovation center here is our demonstration plant, and we're conducting some cutting-edge research on water reuse here that's beneficial for the program, but also for water reuse across California and even the globe," Soni said.

The demonstration facility sits on a wastewater treatment plant and began testing in 2019.

To clean the water to the highest standard, it goes through a state-of-the-art three-step purification process — membrane bioreactors, reverse osmosis, UV light, and advanced oxidation.

This is now what a stable supply looks like.

Traditionally, water planners relied on Mother Nature's historical weather and climate records, but Metropolitan's Resource Planning Manager Demetri Polyzos said that's no longer dependable.

"What we're seeing with climate change, the weather patterns are shifting and things are becoming more extreme, and the type of precipitation we're seeing is different. So instead of seeing a lot of snow, we're seeing more rain. And again, the system just wasn't built to handle mass inflows of water. Like we're seeing, what the climate experts are telling us we should expect in climate change. And we've also started to already see that today," Polyzos said.


Weather whiplash became a new term in California after going from drought to deluge.

The state experienced its three driest years on record from 2020 to 2022, followed by one of its wettest and snowiest years in 2023, which flooded parts of the state.

California's Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said they plan for the new normal. 

"There are ways in which we can adapt our existing infrastructure to handle that better, um, to modernize that infrastructure in terms of our ability to really capture it, when it's coming down, very intensely. But then also recycle it when it comes into the community. So we're no longer using water once or twice, we're using it three times," Nemeth said.

And that's exactly Pure Water's mission.

The program is currently undergoing its environmental review phase and is expected to come online in 2032, where it will be able to produce up to 150 million gallons a day, which is enough to meet the needs of 1.5 million people.

"Our goal is to make sure that our region continues to thrive and has access to clean, safe water. And that's what this program is about," Soni said.

And it's facilities like this that are innovating the future of water to be available, no matter what Mother Nature does or doesn't bring.