Diemer filtration plant

By Melda

The recent droughts and subsequent water shortages have emphasized the delicate nature of water supply. For a number of decades, water resource has been taken for granted by residents of southern California estate. The attention of the media has been mainly focused on the origin, treatment, transport and the distribution of water. The Mediterranean-like climate in the southern part of California has attracted a huge number of people in this small and semi-arid geographical area. It is estimated that seventy-five percent of California’s population live in southern California. This southern part receives less precipitation and other natural forms of natural supplies. According to statistics, only eighteen to twenty-five percent of precipitation is experienced in this southern part of California. The populous areas located in the central and north of California receive the rest of the seventy-five percent of the precipitation. The shortage in precipitation has necessitated the construction of far-reaching water projects from the early 1900s. The obtaining of a water source outside the local environs outside southern California has always resulted to controversy, mistrust, and political intrigues.


Thesis statement

The Diemer Plant has a crucial role in life of southern California residence. They are two departments that carry the majority task of filtering. The Water System Operation and The Water Resource Management departments of the Diemer plant play a central role in ensuring quality of the product by doing the filtration. Of course, there are many other parts involved in this huge project that without one the others stay unproductive. The responsibility of transferring, treating and distributing water rests on the department of water system operation. Drinking water standards and quality are tested in this facility. Also, the water resource management has an important role. This department is responsible for managing and supervising high-quality water resources. Water is a gift from nature, and drinking water is the result of human’s hard work.


According to the Center for Land use interpretation, in 1929, Robert B. Diemer went to metropolitan. He had an extensive engineering career in dams and canals construction that he had started away back in 1911. During his time as the chief engineer and general manager, the expansion program that resulted to the Colorado River aqueduct was initiated. The full delivery capacity was one billion gallons a day. Being a member of the metropolitan board of directors, and a representative of the city of Pasadena, Robert B he played a central role in ensuring that the Diemer filtration plant was fully operational. The Diemer plant was completed in 1963. It had an initial capacity of two hundred million gallons a day. Diemer was involved in the dedication of the Diemer treatment plant in 1964. It was developed to provide reliable and quality supplies of water to meet the present and future needs in an economically and environmentally responsible way. Today, the southern California plant can treat over five hundred gallons a day. (The Center for Land use interpretation, 2010)

The Diemer filtration plant is located inYorba Linda and comprises one of the five metropolitan water district systems. The hilltop location of the plant makes it well suited for gravity flow to orange counties and Los Angeles. The Diemer plant delivers approximately 520 million gallons of water in a day. Most water comes from Colorado River through the Colorado River Aqueduct and flows to Diemer plant. The plant also receives water through the state water project from Northern California though in smaller amounts. It is the only water treatment facility in the MWD system that an on-site hydroelectric power generator can be found. Before selling water, to ensure high-quality products, a series of processes occur to ensure high-quality water. The four basic processes include flocculation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection.
Water level and pressure are regulated carefully through automated equipments, surveillance and monitoring. Screens and grates are used to keep large materials such as trash, plant materials and debris out of water. The distribution networks also play a role in keeping unnecessary materials out of the water. The initial process in the treatment involves coagulation where additives such as aluminum sulfate and other additives are used. The additives work in a way that they attach themselves to particles in the water. The particle blocks settle to the bottom of the tanks through sedimentation. Sedimentation process involves removing the sediments that comprise of a bulk of impurities that are settled down in a large basin by the use of a mechanical scraper.

Raymond C. Coulter elaborates that, the sediment is pumped out, and the water is schemed and moved onto the filter bed area. Sand and coal are used in filtering the particles that may have been left. Water is filtered by passing through the sand and coal layers, and then disinfection is carried out to kill the remaining microorganisms. The system known as a double filter system remove all the remaining bacteria. A routine back washing process is carried out to clear the accumulated sediment filters. Filtration has been seen as one of the processes that the Diemer filtration plant has put more effort on. By using a double filter system, has been effective in ensuring that the large amount of water handled by the filtration plant. The double filtration also has an additional advantage because, besides filtering the unnecessary materials, it is also involved in removing other bacteria that pass through the other preceding process. (Raymond C. Coulter, 2008)

The process of disinfecting is done using ammonia and chlorine. Major water utility plants for the past half century used chlorine to disinfect water. However, extensive research by agencies has shown that chlorine at times combines with organic materials and with natural bromide to form carcinogens called trihalomethanes in the drinking water. Water agencies have begun working on alternative methods of disinfection such as ozonation and chloramines. Several types of trihalomethanes such as chloroform can be formed during the reaction with chlorine. The chloramines method involves adding ammonia to chlorine during the process of disinfection. The level of trihalomethanes in the water that has been disinfected using chloramines is considerably low compared to straight chlorine disinfection. In addition, the use of chloramines method leads to a low rate of dissipation. The traditional taste of chlorine is absent in the chloramines treated water. The Diemer filtration plant uses ammonia and chlorine to avoid the side effects caused by use of direct chlorination method. Recently, Diemer filtration plant has adopted the ozonation method of disinfection. Using ozonation method is more effectiveness against bacteria and viruses than the traditional chlorination method. For example, ozonation kills Giardia and Cryptosporidium types of protozoa which chlorine is not effective on. It oxidizes manganese, iron, sulfide, color, taste and odor in water. (Metropolitan Water District's Diemer Filtration Plant, 2012)

Quality control

According to Steven P. Erie, to ensure water quality, the laboratory chemist in Diemer notes several water quality parameters. To level of in, the levels of the mineral in the water is determined. Total Dissolved Solid (TDS) refer to the aggregate amount of minerals found dissolved in the water source. Highly mineralized water has taste problems. The hardness of water from different areas is determined by the amount of magnesium and calcium in the given water. Hard water often leaves spots and deposits on particular surfaces after drying. The chemist also takes into consideration organic chemicals present in the water such as trihalomethanes (THM) and pesticides. Also, consideration is given relating to turbidity factors or the factors that relate to dirt particles in the water under investigation. Quality control also involves checking on microbial contamination from viruses, bacteria, protozoans and others organisms. Ozonation process is mostly preferred by most water treatment plants. In the ozonation process, to kill all living organisms, treatment is done by bubbling ozone gas through the water. The process kills all living organisms. The ozone gas diffuses out from the water leaving no taste impairment and organism free water with low levels of trihalomethanes. (Steven P. Erie, 2006)

Contaminants that may be found in source water include inorganic contaminants that include metals and salts that can result from urban storm water, domestic and industrial waste discharges, mining and farming, oil and gas production. Also, inorganic contaminants may occur naturally. Secondly, water contamination may result from microbial contaminants that include bacteria and viruses from septic systems, sewage treatment plants, livestock and agricultural operations and wildlife. The third source of source water contamination is through herbicides and pesticides that come from several sources especially in areas where agriculture is practiced. Organic chemicals can also contaminate water. These chemicals include volatile and synthetic organic chemicals that are by-products of the industrial processes, gas stations and petroleum production.  Lastly, radioactive contamination that occurs naturally or as a result of mining activities and oil and gas production contaminate source water. (Englebret et al, 1982)

United States. Office of Saline Water explains that the use of automated systems is useful in regulating water levels and pressures and also in offering precise surveillance and monitoring. This allows the plant operators to predict and meet demands while responding to emergency situations rapidly. In the water treatment plant, pumps, web of pipes and sophisticated electronic gadgets makes the process of filtration to appear to be complex. However, the process of filtration is very simple and effective. In the conventional filtration process, items similar to those used at home, garage or garden are used. The water is ready to use or delivery to consumers after the multi-stage process.

Metropolitan water district facilities such as Diemer operate as water wholesalers for other retail water companies and various cities in southern California. Besides the Diemer filtration plant addressing water quality issues, it has also been involved in addressing statewide priorities such as drought preparedness, efficient use and reuse water, climate change response action, expand environmental stewardship and ensuring equitable distribution of resources. Under drought preparedness, the Diemer infiltration plant through water conservation has improved water supply. Through landscape improvement program, water saving has been possible. It has also resulted to less source pollution, reduction in dry weather runoff and has seen a reduction in maintenance cost. Water conservation translates to improved water supply reliability due to the increased regional storage. The filtration plant has seen less dependence on imported supplies especially bearing in mind that the Diemer plant is located in the southern part of California which is considered to be dry. (United States. Office of Saline Water, 1967)

The Diemer plant has contributed to the climate change response action by in the form of energy reduction. Diemer is the only treatment plant that has an onsite generator in the MWD’s distribution system. Diemer is at advantage from the force created by the water as it rushes down the pipelines and aqueducts leading to the plant. The power plant was built as one among sixteen such facilities with distribution and conveyance systems built during the 1980s. The energy from the Diemer facility is important in supplementing the overall energy needs of the metropolitans. This means conserving electricity and significantly reducing electrical cost in the region.

Counter argument

At least 466 gallons of highly concentrated sodium hydroxide spilled from Diemer filtration plant in the year 1989 according to Los Angeles Times The spillage extended to Telegraph creek that runs through a state park named Chino Hills. The spill crossed a public bike path after going undetected by the water agency for three days. Some cyclists said they were inflicted with blistering burns on their backs, legs and other body parts. The damage also extended to the bikes clothing and tires that were burned and pitted. The water agency is said to be the first public entity in the nation to face criminal charges by violating laws regarding water pollution. The chemical involved turned out to be extremely dangerous and resulted to people being hurt. The Los Angeles Times reported some negligence stating that the risk posed by the plants plumbing system was known and that no attempts were made to resolve the problem. There was an allegation by the water quality officials and the prosecution concerning an illegal chemical system at the Diemer plant. They alleged that the illegal chemical system was designed to discharge caustic chemicals in case there was a build-up in pressure, into the park. (Los Angeles Times, 1990) This is an example of how the Diemer filtration plant negatively affected the community. The fact that the plant operated an illegal chemical system used for discharging caustic chemicals was a clear indication of the health risk that the plant posed to users, community all stakeholders in general.


The Diemer plant has increased water supply reliability through the use of multiple water supply sources. The plant has also increased operational flexibility by creating redundancy in the conveyance system of water. The plant through the utilization of advanced methodologies and technologies has improved the quality of water that meets regulatory requirements and standards. The project complements the community through collaborating with the community and other agencies throughout its operations and planning in order to provide quality product to users. Diemer plant has played a central role to southern California. The water system operation and resource management departments have ensured quality of water by filtering water through the support of other departments. The water system operation department through its responsibility of transferring, treating and distributing water has also played a role in ensuring that the quality of the product is high.


Englebret, Ernest and Ann Scheuring California Water University of California Press, Berkeley (1982)

Marla Cone Judge Won't Treat MWD Chemical Spill as Felony Los Angeles Times December 28, 1990

Metropolitan Water District's Diemer Filtration Plant retrieved from http://morriscourse.com/lab/lab_manual/diemer.pdf (2012)

Raymond C. Coulter  Saline Water Conversion Act U.S. Office of Saline Water (2008)

Steven P. Erie The Metropolitan Water District Growth in Southern California Stanford University Press (2006)

The Center for Land use interpretation Diemer filtration plant retrieved from http://clui.org/ludb/site/diemer-filtration-plant (2010)

United States. Office of Saline Water Proceedings, Volume 3 the University of Michigan (1967)


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