Water We Doing?

The extremity of drought conditions in California ebbs and flows, and a few dry months can make a big impact on water availability throughout the state. After the driest winter and spring on record in 2022, California’s Department of Water Resources has implemented serious and severe water use restrictions that range from irrigation bans to required 20% reductions in water usage. For businesses and industries that depend on water for daily operations, the availability of clean, safe and reliable water is non-negotiable, so what is the best response to the drought? Innovative treatment and reuse. 

“Water is in short supply. We need more usable water,” said Gil Dhawan, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Applied Membranes, a cutting-edge water treatment and filtration company based in Vista. “Many of our clients, particularly those in agriculture, manufacturing, and food and beverage production, are facing some extreme challenges due to water use restrictions being imposed. We help them capture water, filter it, and then reuse it. The goal is to reduce our clients’ dependence on outside water.”

Applied Membranes manufactures water reverse osmosis membranes and filtration systems to help residential and commercial customers treat water for safe reuse. “Companies should be considering their water sources and ability to conserve through reuse processes regardless of drought conditions,” continued Dr. Dhawan. “The best solution is to reuse the water we already have.”

Another North County company that continues to solve water challenges is Escondido-based Aquacycl that specializes in sustainable, scalable technologies that efficiently treat wastewater generated from industrial and commercial applications. “We think of water holistically,” said Orianna Bretschger, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Aquacycl. “We complement water providers by reducing carbon levels in discharged water, and our technologies allow for on-site treatment for customers, which can lessen their reliance on fresh water.” 

Bretschger notes that it’s important for businesses to think ahead of current water needs and consider how their water use and discharge impacts our watersheds and the environment. “More collaboration benefits everyone. We are sharing the same watersheds, so think about how you can be a good steward, reduce your need for fresh water, and treat water before it is discharged.”

She continued, “It’s good to get ahead of it, and think about water more broadly. Don’t wait for water restrictions to be implemented. Water costs could increase by double digits, so every business needs to have a strategy.”

North County is home to many water-intensive industries like beer and biotech, so solving the water challenge is important for our region, especially given that San Diego is at the end of the State Water Project’s delivery system. After weathering other serious droughts, many local North County cities took the initiative to act before the next drought hit (and it’s here!). Pure Water Oceanside, for example, is a new water treatment facility managed by the City of Oceanside that purifies recycled water by way of ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, UV and oxidation treatment to provide up to 30% of the city’s water needs.  

There is also the City of Carlsbad’s desalination plant, which is the nation’s largest energy-efficient seawater desalination plant. Each day it delivers more than 50 million gallons of fresh, desalinated water to customers throughout San Diego County. 

And we would be remiss not to mention the Encina Wastewater treatment plant that is managed by a joint powers agreement between area water agencies and municipalities to safely transport and treat wastewater in Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista, among other neighboring cities. 

Droughts remind us that we do, in fact, live in an arid area, and locally sourced water alone cannot provide enough water for our region. How much water we use, what we use it for, its condition when it re-enters our watersheds, and how can we safely reuse water are all questions we need to ask – drought or not. Luckily, companies like Applied Membranes and Aquacycl are innovating and solving complex water challenges, so we can make the most of this finite resource. Innovation starts here.

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