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Staff Report

The Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California Tuesday celebrated the opening of its expanded facility for treating brackish groundwater for domestic use as the Southland faces another severe dry spell and the need for expanding local water resources grows more critical by the day.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Torrance, WRD directors and guests marked the completion and startup of the $18 million expansion of the Robert W. Goldsworthy Groundwater Desalter facility that will double the amount of brackish groundwater being cleaned and delivered for use daily by Torrance’s 105,000 residential and business customers.

“The inauguration of this expanded facility couldn’t be more timely,” said WRD Director Rob Katherman, referring to recent news reports that last month was the driest January on record and that 44 percent of the state is now experiencing moderate drought conditions. “Goldsworthy will make saline water that’s been undrinkable for decades, drinkable again.”

It is estimated that about 30 percent of the water used by Torrance residents will come from the expanded Goldsworthy facility.

The Goldsworthy Desalter has long been the largest plant in Los Angeles County dedicated to treating brackish (mixture of fresh and salty water) groundwater to make it suitable for domestic consumption. And now it is getting even bigger.

WRD began operating the Goldsworthy facility in 2002 as a pilot project to clean up billions and billions of gallons of brackish groundwater that remains from past seawater contamination of groundwater-bearing aquifers that underlie the coastal areas of south Los Angeles County. The Silverado aquifer, and other primary aquifers historically used for local water supply, were adversely affected by seawater intrusion that occurred many decades ago. As a result, about 650,000 acre feet of groundwater (1 acre foot equals 325,851 gallons) became brackish in coastal aquifers managed by WRD. Such intrusion is no longer happening.

The WRD Board of Directors several years ago approved the plan to double Goldsworthy’s capacity, from 2.5 million to 5 million gallons per day. State drought funding of $7 million has paid for more than a third of the facility’s $18 million cost for expansion.

WRD is the public agency responsible for managing the quality and quantity of local groundwater supplies that provide 50 percent of the water used by 4 million residents living in 43 cities in south Los Angeles County and in nearby unincorporated areas. The cities served by WRD include Los Angeles, Torrance, Long Beach, Carson, Pico Rivera, Lakewood, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Palos Verdes Estates, South Gate and Compton.

“The existing Goldsworthy Desalter project already helps our region achieve a significant degree of independence from imported water,” said Director Katherman. “Now we’re doubling down on that effort with the expanded plant.” Director Katherman, the Board’s Immediate Past-President, represents the City of Torrance on the WRD Board of Directors.

The local water provided by Goldsworthy is part of WRD’s larger plan to end its importation of increasingly expensive and hard to obtain water long distances from Northern California and the Colorado River to serve Southland residents. The centerpiece of that plan is WRD’s Groundwater Reliability Improvement Project (GRIP) now being built in Pico Rivera. The GRIP plant will purify and recycle urban wastewater for domestic use.

“The common denominator of the Goldsworthy and GRIP plants is maximizing our local water supplies,” WRD President John Allen said in prepared remarks. “Goldsworthy cleans brackish groundwater and GRIP will recycle wastewater obtained from the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. WRD’s water management practices are setting the gold standard for how California water providers will have to operate in the future. When the GRIP plant is completed, WRD will be completely free of having to import water. All our water will come from local and sustainable sources.”

The water being treated at the Goldsworthy plant is not as salty as seawater but it is too salty (brackish) to drink or use irrigation. After treatment the Goldsworthy water will be of very high quality and exceed all federal and state water safety standards.

How does groundwater desalting work? Wells pump brackish groundwater from the underlying aquifer. That water is piped to Goldsworthy where it is treated with filters and reverse osmosis technology. The treated water is used by the city of Torrance in the municipal water system.