MENDOCINO Co., 9/1/21 — The City of Fort Bragg is being proactive about making sure it has sources of water secured for the future. At a special meeting Monday, the Fort Bragg City Council unanimously approved the purchase of groundwater desalination equipment, worth $154,624, that is expected to purify the water from Redwood Elementary School’s well. “This is similar to our surface water treatment plant,” said Public Works Director John Smith. “Just a miniature size and a little bit different process.”
The well is among the alternative water sources the city identified, with help from the state, to supplement its primary surface water sources like the Noyo River, which is experiencing a historic drought.
The city initially picked an option that was almost half the cost of the Aqua Clear system approved for purchase, but Smith said it didn’t meet all the criteria set by the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water. Smith said he wasn’t too concerned about the cost because earlier in the day he had submitted a request to the state, which has been receptive to working with the city, for an equivalent amount of emergency grant funds. “They agreed to cover the cost of these two items,” Smith said. “But the original cost estimate was not this great, so basically we added another $150,000, another $180,000 to that request.”
Included in that request were replacement parts, such as spare reverse-osmosis membranes, for the other surface water desalination plant the city bought to treat water from the Noyo River. That desalination plant is intended for times when a combination of low stream flows and high tides render the water from the river too brackish to drink. The city is investing in a pretreatment process that should prevent the membranes from fouling, but Smith said it was good to have redundancy in the system in the form of extra membranes. “We’re just spending a few extra dollars to make sure that everything works as it should,” he said.
The groundwater desalination equipment would likely draw about 40 gallons per minute, or about 57,600 gallons per day, Smith said. Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller added that would cover almost 10% of the city’s water needs or about 280 households. “It’s a pretty good add to our water supply,” Miller said. The water isn’t currently being used by the elementary school or Fort Bragg Unified School District.
The desalination plant and groundwater desalination equipment should arrive toward the end of September.