Importation of Low-Saline Water
One solution that has been ongoing for the past 20 years is transition from use of high-salinity import water to lower-salinity water. In 1956, Western, as a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District, began importing Colorado River water to western Riverside County to supplement diminishing local supplies. While the water provided needed relief to groundwater overdraft in the basin, it also brought a high level of minerals and salts.
State Water Project
In 1979, water from the State Water Project in Northern California became available to the watershed. This water is much lower in salt levels than Colorado River water. Today, about 75 percent of the imported water supplies that Western brings into the watershed are from Northern California via the State Water Project.
While the import of low total dissolved solids (TDS) water helps alleviate the salt problem, added salts must also be extracted from the water before it is put back into the reuse cycle. One option for removing salts from the water is desalination. The Arlington Desalter, located in Riverside, has been in operation since 1990 and can desalt approximately 6 million gallons of groundwater daily.
The Inland Brine Line
Commercial and industrial water users whose processes create a high-saline waste stream can discharge these wastes to a dedicated source that helps prevent the degradation of water quality caused by salt build-up. The Inland Empire Brine Line (IEBL) was built for just that purpose. The IEBL provides industrial users in the Santa Ana River Watershed with an environmentally friendly and convenient way to dispose of high-saline waste. This helps industry meet discharge requirements and keeps added salts out of the municipal sewer systems and, therefore, out of the watershed.