News Feature | February 8, 2017

Arizona May Permit DPR This Year

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Arizona is taking steps toward allowing direct potable reuse (DPR) as the state works to confront its pressing water-supply challenges.

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Senior Hydrologist Chuck Graf said last month that state regulators are likely to propose allowing DPR within six months, according to the Arizona Daily Star. He said the state will “hopefully” approve an initial set of permitting rules and standards in 2017. Arizona made DPR unallowable when it began regulating wastewater in 1982.

Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure supports the use of DPR in the state, according to the report.

“Water reuse’s time has come. It’s a large theme taking place across the U.S. and the world,” he said, per the Daily Star.

Despite progress on the regulatory front, in practice, DPR may be some ways off in Arizona.

“While water utility officials around the state are pushing for more liberal policies for treating wastewater for drinking, such treated water isn’t likely to be flowing from Tucson-area taps soon,” The Daily Star reported.

“The practice is likely to begin first in places such as the Prescott Valley and mountainous or other less urban areas where water resources and the ability to recharge water for future use are limited, said [Tucson Water Director Tim Thomure], who chairs a statewide steering committee on the issue. In those areas, it will be at least two or three years before they’re ready to use it,” the report said, citing Thomure.

In a sign of momentum for DPR in Arizona, a direct reuse project recently won a major water innovation award. The entry from Southwest Water Campus aimed to shatter “the stigma that surrounds recycled water by presenting it in a form that’s harder to turn down — beer,” the Arizona Daily Star reported. The proposal “aims to bring awareness to water scarcity in the state and to introduce a new use for potable reuse water — wastewater that’s been thoroughly treated to become drinkable,” the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Water supply pressures are an urgent issue in southwestern states even as storms have benefited Arizona this winter, according to KPNX:

When looking at the lakes controlled by [one of Arizona’s largest utilities, known as] Salt River Project, “Total storage has actually gone from 44 percent on Dec. 15 to 62 percent as of this morning,” said Charlie Ester, the water operations manager at Salt River Project.

California is also considering regulatory changes that would pave the way for DPR. State water regulators submitted a report to the legislature in December on the feasibility of this practice, concluding that “the use of recycled water for DPR has great potential but it presents very real scientific and technical challenges that must be addressed to ensure the public’s health is reliably protected at all times.”

At this point, there are only two permanent DPR projects operating in the world, according to the California report. One is in Texas, and the other is in Windhoek, Namibia.

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