Padre Dam has been recycling its wastewater for over 50 years. When new wastewater treatment standards were mandated in 1959, the Santee County Water District's general manager, Ray Stoyer, responded with plans for a treatment system that would provide a new water supply and offset the demand for imported water.
Stoyer built a secondary treatment facility and discharged the water into a series of small ponds and percolation beds to complete the treatment process. When the San Diego Department of Health approved Lake Four for boating and picnicking in 1961, and fishing in 1962, local residents and architects and planners from around the world, embraced the water reuse system. Architects and city officials continue to visit 50 years later, as Padre Dam ‘s water recycling facility, recreational lakes and distribution system can be scaled and designed to fit the needs of any community.
Relocated to its present site north of Santee Lakes in 1968, Padre Dam's award winning Water Recycling Facility (WRF) was upgraded in 1997 to treat 2 million gallons per day (MGD) using the Bardenpho system, which combines large amounts of air with microscopic organisms to remove high levels of suspended solids, organic material, nitrogen and phosphorous without the use of chemicals.