Late this summer, Santa Monica will bring online one of the most innovative water infrastructure projects around, a project that will transform our downtown's impact on the environment, the nearshore waters of the Santa Monica Pier and the way we think about sourcing water for our community for generations to come. Yes, one project can do all that; it is called the Clean Beaches Project.
The Clean Beaches Project will capture rainwater flowing through the downtown and divert it to a 1.6-million-gallon cistern located adjacent to the pier. Salty groundwater found under and around the cistern will be added to the mix, and the blended water will be treated, and distributed for irrigation and toilet flushing in what is called a purple pipe system for non-potable uses.
The cistern will capture storm water flowing from 106 acres of the downtown. It is installed underground, beneath 111 additional parking spots. By blending, treating and reusing these additional water resources at the existing Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) adjacent to the cistern, the city will offset the use of up to 182,500,000 gallons of drinking water per year, enough to fill 276 Olympic-size pools. Eventually, the Clean Beaches Project will connect with other innovative projects currently in the works that would expand the purple pipe network.
The Clean Beaches Project is the culmination of years of aggressive planning, design, and infrastructure improvements, and it could not come online at a better time. Today, more than ever before in its history, Santa Monica is actively seeking ways to absorb shocks that we know are coming as climate change progresses. The fight to build water self-sufficiency, to protect our shoreline from the impacts of water pollution originating on our streets, and to sustainably manage our drinking water supplies is the good fight.
All this is good news in these uncertain times, and the fact that the initiative brings new water into the system is vitally important at this time when we seemingly move from one water crisis to the next. But, protecting for our future water supplies is not enough. For the first time, we are protecting the waters adjacent to the pier from wet weather flows, and perhaps we will have the first downtown in America that treats rainwater flowing from its streets for something more, for a strategic community benefit.
For more information, visit the project website at smgov.net/cleanbeaches. The project is jointly funded by the City of Santa Monica Clean Beaches & Ocean Fund (Measure V) and the State Water Resources Control Board Clean Beaches Initiative Grant Program.
Interested in watching a video of the project's progression? Check out the work zone cam.
Andrew Basmajian is the sustainable outreach coordinator for the city's Office of Sustainability and the Environment. This article previously appeared in the city's blog.