Weekly tours are being offered at the the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center. The center manages an integrated water resources system that supplies clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County’s 1.8 million residents.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, and the advanced recycled water purification center. The water purification center provides wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses in Santa Clara County.
The grand opening of the facility was on July 18, 2014, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, in partnership with the cities of San José and Santa Clara. The center has been successfully running for more than a year and is continuing to provide the community with open house tours to help educate the community about how their tax dollars are being used to help offset California’s drought.
An open house and tours at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center is given weekly. Staff and educators are teaching local communities about how the facility may be used in the future as treated waste water could be used in the home not just for irrigatoin and ground recharge purposes.
Colleen Valles working with Santa Clara Valley Water District, in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center said, “This water is right now is being used in the purple pipe system..” The water being treated at the facility is treated and then blended with recycled water. “The open house is to help the community become aware of what we are doing here, Valles said, “To let them see the processes.”
Water released from Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center is used in the purple pipe system that replenishes non-potable irrigation sources. It is also being used to replenish ground water sources throughout Santa Clara County. The end result of the facility is to produce clean water.
The South Bay Water plant has been online since March of 2014 and pumps 11 million gallons of treated water through the system from the Santa Clara County Waste Water Facility. The amount of energy used to process the water, as in the summer months can reach as high as $45,000 a month for electricity. However, as the demand decreases the cost of energy decreases 90% to just around $3,500 – $4000 a month for energy costs associated with the need for water resources from the plant.
Valles said, “Eventually we would like to percolate this back into our ground water.”
Vanessa De La Piedra with the Santa Clara Water District said, “Historically we have seen land subsidence in Santa Clara County.” County and city wide infrastructure is reliant on stationary land sources for sewer and ground water applications. “Sewers, storm drains all rely on a gravity driven flow,” De La Piedra said, “If you start changing land surface, you disrupt the ability of those systems to function properly.”
As part of an education program Santa Clara Valley Water District employees have joined the challenge of helping educate local communities by offering weekly tours that show how new emerging technologies have created opportunities to help support natural fresh water drinking supplies.
Rita Espinoza, who is currently enrolled at the San Jose/Evergreen Valley College District joined the group tour in order to better understand how new technologies can improve local environments. Espinoza said, “It is awesome.” Espinoza took the tour to help her better understand her environmental studies classes she is taking at Evergreen Valley College. Espinoza said, “What surprised me is that each tank on the site stores up to 1.5 million gallons of water.”
With more than 650 people registered to take the tour through the facility, open houses has proven to be a great opportunity to win the hearts of minds of consumers of regular drinking water, that recycled sewage water can become a viable drinking product for the consumer through a secondary and tertiary treatment process.
Working as a computer engineer before applying for a position as the Treatment Plant Manager, Sam Bogale said, “I was very interested in the microfiltration purification systems, especially osmosis.” With more than eight years working with standard filtration systems, “It’s a new challenge, with new technology,” Bogale said. In the summer months with a higher designed flow, electricity costs are around $6,000. However, with a lower flow season, water treatment cost soar to around $35,000 -$40,000. “Lower flow season can run to $45, 000,” Bogale said, “in the winter months when the demand is low, the cost is low.”
Most of the energy costs are associated with the reverse osmosis system and the Ultra Violet (UV) system. There are other alternatives such as ozone and or chlorine treatment. The micro-filtration system removes all bacteria, while the reverse osmosis treatment removes all viruses. However, some small chain viruses may make it through this portion of the treatment. Ultraviolet light is then used to scramble any DNA that may be left in the water, breaking down the DNA and/or denaturing the molecular structure. The next step after UV filtration is to add ozone and or chlorine to help neutralize any virus or DNA structures that may still be present.
After this step water is then sent to the reverse osmosis feed pumps. Three pumps then feed the next system at 500 horsepower. Shelia Kaur who is a Civil Engineer with the Santa Clara Valley Water District said, “Water that comes from the microfiltration is sent here at 50 psi.” Then the water is then sent through the feed pumps to increase the pressure to 190 psi.
With more than half of the total operation and maintenance costs used during the filtration membrane treatment, with a total of 1.6 million in operation costs, the percentage of that cost is around $800,000 to operate and maintain. Kaur said, “This is the operation and maintenance budget for the year.” The costs for operation are funded through local city and state tax measures.
With the City of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley Water District helping to fund the operations the water is also sent through the purple pipe system and sent to more than 831 irrigation and landscaping customers.
After taking the taste challenge with tap water and the treated water Carolyn Olsen said, “It’s better than bottled water”. Olsen said, “I would like to see it used for irrigation, for the home, dishwashing, for everything.”
Rick Lau and his sister Jessica said, “I think it’s nice, but somehow I think the taste is a little different then tap water.” They both thought that tap water compared to the treated water tasted more like there was salt in the water. Rick Lau said, “This one is good.”