Recycled Water History

The Otay Water District has a history in water recycling that goes back to the early 1960s. It was during this time that Director Ralph W. Chapman (picture center) recognized the value of reusing wastewater and became a vocal advocate for water recycling.

Today, not only is it fitting that the District’s water recycling facility bear his name, the Ralph W. Chapman Water Recycling Facility, but the District has continued working to achieve his dream of widespread recycled water use.

Otay’s first recycled water project started with a small packaged water recycling facility affectionately called Miss Stinky in the late 1960s. At this time, however, there were few customers for recycled water. In 1980, the District dedicated a larger facility to serve communities in the Jamacha Basin (now Calavo Gardens and Rancho San Diego). It took until the mid-1980s for Director Chapman’s vision to begin to take shape.

As the EastLake I community in the city of Chula Vista began construction in 1986, millions of gallons of water were needed forsoil compaction and dust suppression. An inexpensive source for water was recycled water from the Chapman Facility.

By the early 1990s, Chula Vista and the District jointly began requiring dual piping in new developments including EastLake. One set of pipes would supply drinking water for human consumption, while a second set would deliver recycled water to irrigate parks, golf courses, ball fields, parkways, and common areas in these new and growing communities.

When the new Supply Link project came online in 2007, recycled water from the District’s Chapman Treatment Plant was supplemented with recycled water from the city of San Diego’s South Bay Water Reclamation Plant.  Combined, recycled water from these two facilities account for approximately 11 to 15 percent of  the District’s total water sales. Today, the District has one of the largest recycled water networks in San Diego County, and it continues to expand.

Ralph W. Chapman recognized one day recycled water would be a low-cost, long-term supply of new water that would help the region offset its demand for imported water. Today, nearly 60 years later, his dream has been realized.

District general manager Harry T. Baker and director Ralph W. Chapman are pictured with La Presa Municipal Water District president, Fred J. Hansen, at what is now Santee Lakes.

Recycled water was also used for the initial filling of lake at the heart of that community.

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