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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A groundbreaking to kick off the expansion of the Sweetwater Authority’s desalination plant was held Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Finding local water sources during a drought may not seem easy. But with the expansion of this plant, officials say you can use a sustainable source of water while keeping your water bill from going up.

The original operation started in 1999. Now, the grant-funded $42 million project will double the amount of groundwater they can clean up for their customers.

“This is groundwater just like you could take out of well that may be in the Central Valley region, same’s just a little too salty to drink and comes right out of the ground, so what we do it take the mineral and the salts out of the water and then that becomes a drinkable product,” said Scott McClelland, Director of Water Quality.

The expansion will take the plant’s capacity from treating 5 million gallons of water a day to 10 million gallons a day, and will add one extra well to the operation.

By spring of 2017, this plant will be able to serve 30 percent of the customers in the Sweetwater District, including National City, Chula Vista and Bonita.

“It allows for reliability. When other areas are having to cut back we should not have to even though the governors doing the mandatory cut back but we’re producing water and so you have a production of water here, our wells here that are fresh water wells also,” said National City Mayor Ron Morrison.

Water authority officials say this should keep the district from having to import so much water from other areas, and keep the cost down for the customer.

But how can we make sure we’re not taking too much out of our local aquifers, especially in the middle of a drought?

“It’s a very different type of system — water that falls from the sky is on the surface. Water in the ground has usually been there for a long period of time…we know that there is quite a bit of water down there and we have to be very careful about how much we pull out,” McClelland said.

McClelland says they keep a close eye on “monitoring wells” to watch the water table and make sure they’re not depleting our local water sources. Project researchers say the groundwater has stayed consistent, and that’s how they know they’re taking the right amount.