Local dignitaries gathered at the Santa Monica Beach on Monday to officially break ground on a new water reuse project designed to help the city reduce its dependency on imported water.

The Santa Monica Clean Beached Project will install a large catchment tank under the parking lot near the Santa Monica Pier. The water will be passed through a pre-treatment system before being pumped to the sewer or the SMURFF facility depending on capacity. It will collect up to 1.6 million gallons at a time and officials said it could result in savings of 560 acre feet per year, equal to 275 Olympic sized pools or about 182 million gallons per year. That water could save the city more than $31 million in imported water fees over the next 30 years.

Mayor Winterer said the tank is one of several projects aimed at water conservation.

“Today, I’m proud to be standing with you to break ground on the clean beaches project which is one of several strategic projects the city is implementing to improve beach water quality and to achieve true long term water sustainability and drought resiliency,” he said.

California Assemblyman Richard Bloom said he and his colleagues and Sacramento were working on several state bills to help preserve valuable ground water and that the state will continue to work on environmental projects despite a lack of support at the Federal level.

“This project is going to be an example that can be replicated in a cost effective way around the state and really around the country,” he said. “So we’re really providing leadership as we often do here in Santa Monica.”

Funding for the $15,000,000 project is a partnership between the State Water Resources Control Board and the City of Santa Monica’s Measure V property tax.

Jonathan Bishop, Chief Deputy Director of the Board said projects like this are important because they move the conversation beyond thinking of runoff as just a pollutant.

“It also treats storm water as the resource it is,” he said. “It’s very important to my board that we start not just treating and discharging storm water but we start using it, capturing it, infiltrating it and reusing it as a resource.”

Tom Ford, Chairman of the Santa Monica Measure V Citizens Oversight Committee and Executive Director of The Bay Foundation said the project came about as a collaboration between organizations and singled out Heal the Bay for their work in driving the project forward.

He sad the old thinking recognized polluted runoff as something that needed to be dealt with but the approach was often limited to seeing it as a liability and expense.

“That old water, once treated, can be a resource for our public benefit, for our recreation, for our industry and certainly for the most important thing that I do with it every day, drinking it,” he said.

Construction on the new system is expected to last about a year and when completed, the site will be repaved and returned to its former use as parking.

Visit www.smgov.net/cleanbeaches for more information.