A new water recycling system is on its way to becoming the most expensive public works project San Diego has ever undertaken.
Pure Water, as it’s called, could provide a third of the city’s drinking water within 20 years — while also reducing the amount of treated sewage the city dumps into the ocean.
But that project, estimated in 2015 to cost some $3 billion, could now have a price tag of no less than $4.8 billion and potentially as much as $9 billion , Ry Rivard reports, based on previously undisclosed internal estimates from the Public Utilities Department.
The first phase of the project, which is expected to produce about 30 million gallons of drinkable water each day, is underway now and could be done by 2024. Estimates for the second phase of the project, though, now range from $3.4 billion to $7.4 billion.
While the cost to the city of building Pure Water has been increasing, the city has not yet thought to estimate how much the project could ultimately cost water customers through their monthly water bills, as Rivard covered earlier  this month.
Uncertainty Looms for Asylum-Seekers in Mexico
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new policy of returning asylum-seekers to Mexico while they await court hearings has left migrants and their advocates confused and concerned.
In the Border Report, Maya Srikrishnan writes that providing asylum-seekers with legal representation while in Mexico is more difficult than it sounds . There are also longstanding questions about whether the migrants will be safe in Tijuana, one of the world’s deadliest cities.
To make matters worse, the Mexican government doesn’t appear to have a plan to deal with the influx of returned migrants. A report by Public Radio International  suggests that local government officials have little confidence in their own ability to provide for the returned asylum-seekers. City shelters are already at capacity.
In the meantime, the U-T reports, at least two dozen U.S. citizens, including photojournalists, have been stopped and questioned by Customs and Border Protection officials about their interactions  with migrants in Tijuana. The courts are currently considering how much authority borders officials have to search and interrogate, particularly when it comes to cellphone and laptop searches.
Get Your Parent’s Guide 2019
This year’s edition of the Parent’s Guide to Public Schools is now out . It’s the second year Voice of San Diego published the guide in collaboration with UC San Diego Extension’s Center for Research on the Regional Economy and the Center for Local Income Mobility at the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
The Parent’s Guide includes articles and explanations of how local districts work, how you can choose and evaluate different schools and how some schools have changed their stories over the years. It also contains all the data the state and others make available on how students at every school in San Diego County performed on tests and how that’s changing over time. This year, we have also included school absenteeism rates, SAT tests, graduation rates and how each school performs on a special equity rating.
Finally we added a comprehensive guide for understanding the maze of parent organizations with different levels of influence on both your school and your school district. And we updated our online map  with all this information about local schools. We distributed 50,000 copies of the guide and they’re at many local libraries. A bevy of local partners are helping distribute them, see the list here . The guide is available in Spanish as well.
We improved a lot of the guide after tremendous feedback last year, so please let us know what we can do better with the new edition.
Newsom to Trump: Stop With the ‘Political Theater’
As a second partial government shutdown looms in Washington, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the removal of roughly 360 National Guard members  from California’s southern boundary with Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reported. Instead, Newsom is looking to redeploy the troops to combat wildfires and drug-smuggling.
The crisis portrayed by President Donald Trump, Newsom said at a press conference in Sacramento , is a “manufactured” one that California won’t help perpetuate.
A reporter asked Newsom whether he was concerned his actions would cause a backlash from the White House. The president has indicated that he could divert federal dollars away from California.
“Every day there’s new concerns,” Newsom said, according to Bloomberg .
If Congress doesn’t consent to a border wall, Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency. But there’s a catch. Lawmakers can terminate an emergency declaration , NPR reports.
More Funding on the Way for Local Nonprofits
The state Senate on Monday signed off on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request  to quickly deploy $5 million to nonprofits that aid asylum seekers in the wake of a separate federal policy change  that has forced hundreds of migrants onto San Diego streets.
Until recently, federal officials would ensure that families who turned themselves in legally at a port of entry to request asylum had ways to connect with sponsors in the United States. But when that policy came to an end in October, migrants were released without any guaranteed place to go .
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins added her voice to a growing chorus of criticism.
“The federal government has abandoned its responsibility to provide basic assistance to vulnerable families who are in our country legally and have been approved for asylum proceedings — instead dumping them on the streets of San Diego with nowhere to turn for help,” she said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider suing the federal government.
In Other News
- Exclusive agreements between telecommunications companies and local governments drive up the cost of jail phone calls , disproportionately hitting the pockets of low-income families. (Union-Tribune)
- Officials announced a new program aiming to connect homeless residents in Hillcrest with stable housing and social services . San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward introduced similar programs in North Park and City Heights last week. (City News Service)
- Watch out, doc, the robots are coming for your job. Scientists in San Diego and China say an artificial intelligence system can identify childhood diseases  about as accurately as an experienced pediatrician. (Union-Tribune)
- Some idiot is suspected of dumping a paint-like substance down a storm drain, turning a creek in Rancho Bernardo purple. Authorities cleaned and flushed 500 feet of pipe to stop the substance from contaminating one of the region’s largest drinking water sources . (10News)
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.