Ryan Hughes is Padre Dam's talented Recycled Water Operations Supervisor who ensures that the plant runs efficiently 24 hours a day to keep up with the demand of recycled water for Santee Lakes and the purple pipe system. Recycled water in Santee comes from the Ray Stoyer Water Recycling Facility (WRF), located a few miles north of Santee Lakes.
Operators at the WRF manage the wastewater from the moment it arrives at the plant to the moment that it's distributed into the recycled water system. This process involves intensive oversight and testing to ensure that the recycled water produced meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements.
"There's chemistry in our jobs, there's biology in our jobs, there's mechanics in our job, to work here you have to be a jack of all trades. As much as it's a physical job it's an intellectual one too. You have to be able to go outside and rebuild a pump and you have to be able to come inside and analyze data," Hughes comments.
Ryan is one in a long line of operators who have kept the WRF running since the 1960s - when Padre Dam first began recycling wastewater. The next step in continuing on the legacy of water reuse at Padre Dam is the East County Advanced Water Purification Program. This new project would expand the treatment process to produce clean, safe drinking water for East County customers. Once the full-scale water treatment facility is established, Ryan and his team will be charged with treating over 15 million gallons of wastewater every day.
"The more water we can reuse, the less water we will have to import. It's a really exciting project, not only for Padre Dam but for the whole region."
With this new project, operators at the WRF have taken on the challenge of operating the Advanced Water Purification Demonstration Facility, continuing routine maintenance well as running tests. They were charged with the task of proving that it was possible to maintain a steady and reliable production of clean safe drinking water from the plant, which led to the project's conceptual approval. Now they run tests to continue to increase the efficiency of the system so that when the full-scale project is developed they can produce as much purified water as possible.
"I like challenges, I like identifying situations where something could run more efficiently, and working to get it to that point. It's very rewarding to see that difference."
Padre Dam currently recycles approximately two million of the four million gallons of wastewater that is produced in Santee every day. About half of this water fills Santee Lakes, the financially self-sufficient recreational preserve owned by Padre Dam. The other half fills the purple pipe system that delivers recycled water to customers throughout Santee. Recycled Water can be used for watering landscapes, plants, fruits and vegetables.
When he's not at work, Ryan enjoys golfing, watching the Padres and spending time with his three kids. One of his favorite things to do is go on family camping trips at the mountains or the beach.
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