Santa Ana, California – Soon, many Californians might be using recycled wastewater as their drinking water.
On Tuesday, California authorities set new standards allowing water providers to process wastewater and reintroduce it into the drinking water supply.
Under these regulations, water agencies are permitted, but not required, to recycle wastewater and funnel it back into the system that provides water to residences, schools, and businesses.
California will become the second state to adopt this practice, following Colorado’s lead.
The state has a history of using recycled wastewater. For example, the Ontario Reign minor league hockey team uses it to create ice, Soda Springs Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe uses it for snow production, and Central Valley farmers utilize it for irrigation.
How was this water previously used?
Previously, it hasn’t been used directly as a drinking water. In Orange County, a large water purification system recycles wastewater and then replenishes underground aquifers with it. This water blends with the natural groundwater for several months before being extracted for drinking purposes.
The new guidelines demand that wastewater be treated for all possible pathogens and viruses, regardless of their presence. This is different from conventional water treatment protocols, which only target known pathogens, explained Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the division of drinking water at the California Water Resources Control Board.
The process is so thorough that it even removes minerals that give fresh drinking water its taste, necessitating their re-addition after the end of the process.
Due to the high costs and time required to construct such facilities, this method will initially be more feasible for larger, financially capable cities. San Diego, for instance, has a plan to develop a water recycling program that could provide nearly half of the city’s water by 2035.