News Feature | June 29, 2016

California Takes Regulatory Steps Toward DPR

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

California is developing new regulations for wastewater that may permit direct potable reuse (DPR), expanding on the momentum of popular indirect reuse programs.

The effort comes amid the state’s persistent drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor says no area of the state is completely rid of abnormally-dry conditions despite the repeal of conservation mandates in May.

Indirect potable reuse (IPR) is also getting a regulatory boost. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted new rules in June aiming to simplify regulations for water agencies pursuing these projects, according to KQED.

The new rules affirm recycled water “as a resource by permitting its use through water recycling requirements as opposed to waste discharge requirements,” according to a release from the water board. “Adoption of the Order is one more step toward the goal of substituting as much recycled water for potable water as possible by 2030.”

The board is expected to unveil new rules for DPR by the end of the year, according to KQED. Jennifer West, managing director of WaterReuse California, weighed in on how she expects that to look, per KQED:

By the end of December, the state water board will finalize regulations that will allow highly purified recycled water to be added to drinking water reservoirs. This added water must meet or exceed all drinking water standards. They are developing these regulations with the advice of an expert panel. Also by the end of the year, the board will release a report to the state legislature on the feasibility of developing statewide regulations on “direct potable reuse” or DPR. This is when the highly purified recycled water is placed directly into the drinking water supply, or directly upstream of a drinking water distribution system. These types of potable reuse projects have the potential to greatly expand the use of recycled water in California, well beyond what we are using today.

Once wary of “toilet-to-tap,” Californians have shifted their opinion on recycled water amid years of record-breaking drought.

“Many water agencies over the past few years have rolled out small recycled water programs. These are mainly producing nonpotable water for outdoor irrigation, and have become popular with people who want to continue watering their gardens without impacting their water bills,” KQED said.

West, from WaterReuse California, says recycled water is already an important part of the supply in the state.

“There are lots of estimates out there in terms of how much recycled water can be developed. But we think that an additional 1.5 to 2.5 million acre-feet (1.9–3 billion cubic meters) is a pretty solid projection. That is a lot of water,” she said.

To read more about advances in water recycling visit Water Online’s Water Reuse Solutions Center.