PERRIS, Calif. — A team with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District met with Eastern Municipal Water District officials July 7 at their facility in Perris to reaffirm their partnership and formally recognize the next phase of project implementation for the South Perris Desalination Program.
Col. Julie Balten, LA District commander, joined Joe Mouawad, EMWD general manager, for a ceremonial signing of a Project Partnership Agreement, an update on recent project developments and a tour of the new Perris II Desalter.
The Perris II Desalter, which uses reverse osmosis to remove salts from the groundwater in the Perris and Menifee areas in Riverside County, is the third such facility that the EMWD operates. Since its June 2022 commissioning, it has increased capacity by 5.4 million gallons of useable water per day to help ensure basic human health and safety.
The desalter is the newest major addition to EMWD’s desalination program, the goal of which is to support water supply diversity and reliability for the Perris South Groundwater Management Zone and surrounding areas in western Riverside County.
Nested in that overall goal is a set of objectives, such as developing unused brackish groundwater, decreasing reliance on imported water sources, protecting adjacent high-quality groundwater basins from salt intrusion, increasing reliability of the local water supply, improving drought resilience and providing water to disadvantaged communities.
“There’s just been a number of benefits that have resulted from this effort,” said Joe Mouawad, general manager.
The authority granted to the Corps to assist nonfederal partners in water-related environmental infrastructure, resource protection and development projects comes from Section 219 of the Water Resources and Development Act. Other such activities include ecosystem restoration, flood control, navigation and wastewater infrastructure.
In this case, EMWD’s desalination program includes not only treatment facilities, but also wells, pipelines, brine management facilities to extract, treat and move brackish groundwater throughout the Perris South Groundwater Management Zone.
Along with nearly $4.5 million in federal funds received for the project for brine pipeline improvements through the fiscal year 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, an additional $4.5 million in funds for the FY2023 work plan are being provided, which demonstrates an ongoing commitment by the federal government to fund the construction of infrastructure projects designed to strengthen the economy and tackle the nation’s water resources challenges.
As it stands, EMWD produces half of its water locally, while the other half is imported from the Colorado River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. As of the EMWD’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for FY2022, 5 percent of the supply is from groundwater desalination. With the addition of the Perris II Desalter, that number is estimated to have risen to 10 percent.
The Corps-EMWD partnership goes back to 2003, when both agencies first cemented design and construction agreements. Along with the Perris II Desalter, the LA District also has assisted with the management of construction for three wells within the last five years. These components help comprise Phase I of the water district’s desalination program, together producing 6,000 acre-feet of water annually to about 12,000 households.
Going forward, planned projects include a brine pipeline access improvements project, a brackish well-siting study and a brackish transmission pipeline.
“We’re really grateful for the history of our partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Mouawad said. “We’ve shared that history and look forward to continuing that collaboration for many years to come.”
“I want to thank your team for its partnership and for the innovation in this project, and what it brings to the community,” Balten said, adding it takes a “whole-of-government” approach to build water resilience in Southern California and Arizona, and to reduce reliance on external water sources.
“It takes all of us as a community, and Eastern Municipal Water District is spearheading that effort in creating this innovative approach to water quality,” Balten added. “There are so many great things to get behind in this project. Not only is this just a fantastic opportunity to get to see it today, but to sign this agreement that charges the project forward to the next phase into construction. That’s why we’re here today, so we can get projects delivered, to keep our word and be your partner.”