LA Wants To Recycle 100% Of Its Wastewater By 2035 And Thinks $2 Billion Should Do It

Located near LAX and Dockweiler Beach, the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is L.A.'s oldest and largest wastewater treatment facility. (Courtesy Mayor Eric Garcetti's office)

Mayor Eric Garcetti has a new goal for Los Angeles: recycling 100 percent of our wastewater — but it'll take 16 years and $2 billion to do it.

How do sanitation officials plan to make that happen? The biggest piece of the puzzle involves upgrading the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, the largest such facility in the western United States.

Located near LAX and Dockweiler Beach, the plant is L.A.'s oldest and largest wastewater treatment facility (roughly the size of Disneyland). It processes 260 million gallons of wastewater every day, recycling roughly a quarter of that.

Garcetti said that right now the roughly 75% of the water from the Hyperion plant that isn't drinkable just ends up back in the ocean but this plan would change that.

"We will sell it to neighboring cities, including El Segundo and West Hollywood and Santa Monica and use it for the city of L.A.... It gives us everyday almost a quarter billion gallons that we can use for landscaping or putting back into the aquifer for drinking water," he said.

Boosting the recycle rate from 25 percent to 100 percent won't come cheap. The city's Bureau of Sanitation (BOS) estimates the improvements at the Hyperion plant will cost about $2 billion to reach the mayor's goal by 2035.

"Los Angeles is confident in its ability to finance this project largely through federal and state funding, and plans to supplement these funds through city cash or bond money," mayor's office officials said in a statement.

City officials said they're working with Sacramento to secure funds, which they expect to be freed up by Gov. Gavin Newsom's one-tunnel solution to the delta water project.

Garcetti says he thinks the state could supply all of the money to pay for the project, especially with the savings from the one-tunnel solution.

"We're not raising anybody's taxes to do all of this because we can sell the water, it'll pay for itself. But to finance it up front and to build out the infrastructure of the new pipes that will take water out of this plant and back into the system, we hope that the state will step up," he said.

It's also in the state's interest to support the project because it will benefit all of California, he said.

"It's a service not just to L.A. but to all of the state, because we don't have to pull water away from the rest of our state's precious resources."

So, what's the journey of recycled wastewater?

According to the mayor's office, the initial process at treatment plants puts it at "near-drinking water quality." After that, the recycled water travels to one of L.A.'s groundwater treatment replenishment facilities, where it's filtered into the basin over time, mixing with the existing groundwater.

Then, the water is extracted and treated again at that groundwater facility "before it reaches drinking water quality and enters the water distribution system."

The Hyperion plant is one of L.A.'s four water treatment facilities. The other three — L.A. Glendale, Tillman and Terminal Island — are already at 100 percent recycled water capacity. City officials are confident they can do the same with Hyperion.

According to the mayor's office, the projects at that plant will "create good-paying engineering, construction, operations, and maintenance jobs," although no estimate of how many was immediately available.

One project BOS is developing at the Hyperion plant is a "1.5 MGD Advanced Water Purification Facility," which officials said will supply recycled water for use at LAX facilities and to equipment at the plant itself by 2021.