California regulators approved new measures last week allowing treated recycled wastewater in state reservoirs.
“The regulations specify the percentage of recycled water that can be added and how long it must reside there before being treated again at a surface water treatment facility and provided as drinking water, according to the Water Board,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“The decision was the culmination of a two-year public review process, which included an independent scientific review and guidance by an expert panel that determined the regulations adequately protect public health,” the report continued.
The regulations “give water agencies an important new tool in augmenting water supply,” News Deeply reported.
Miryam Barajas of the California State Water Resources Control Board classified the program as a form of indirect potable reuse.
“It's not treated recycle water that goes directly to someone's house," Barajas said, per the report. "It's highly treated."
Barajas noted that San Diego is the most equipped city in the state to carry out a sewer-to-reservoir operation, but additional states are likely to follow. California has 36 reservoirs and all of them could be affected by the decision, but it is unclear when water managers will take advantage of the new regulations.
"The regulations are now there but the infrastructure is not," she said, per the report.
California already has a variety of indirect potable reuse programs.
“Conversion of wastewater to drinking water ... already takes place in Orange County, Los Angeles and other Southern California communities. There are also demonstration projects that let people learn about and taste recycled water in such communities as Santa Clara and San Diego,” Capitol Weekly reported.
State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus framed the new policy as an important water conservation measure.
“Cities and counties around the state are looking to stretch their local water supplies in the face of an increasingly uncertain water future,” she said. “Water efficiency and reuse are the smartest ways to help our water resources go further. Today’s action is another important step in expanding the sensible use of recycled water in California.”
Image credit: "Shasta Dam - 1," Bureau of Reclamation © 2004, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/