Late last year, the California State Water Resource Control Board released its final report to the California Legislature, concluding that it is feasible to produce safe, recycled drinking water in California through direct potable reuse. According to Orange County Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance, this report paves the way for California to become more drought-resilient by investing in a local, cost-effective water supply alternative. The new report outlines water-recycling criteria specifically for direct potable reuse, which no other state has developed so far.
Currently, through indirect potable reuse, purified recycled water is used to replenish aquifers – which act as a buffer before water is pumped to the drinking water treatment facility. Direct potable reuse would allow treated water to be put into the drinking water system without the use of an environmental buffer.
“With the final report confirming that direct potable reuse is possible, California has the opportunity to become the pioneer of advanced purified recycled water,” says Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper executive director and chair of the Direct Potable Reuse Advisory Panel. “Now, we need the State Water Board to keep up its momentum by allocating funds and staff to ensure this groundbreaking report allows California to develop regulations for this sustainable water source as quickly as possible.”
Indirect potable reuse already purifies more than 65 billion gallons of recycled water per year through eight projects throughout California, including the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s largest highly advanced treated water recycling system. Coastkeeper says direct potable reuse would allow more counties to develop a reliable local water supply – even without an environmental buffer like an aquifer or lake.
“Recycled water is a drought-proof water source that will help California thrive in a drier future, and this report confirms we can safely produce drinkable recycled water,” says California Coastkeeper Alliance Policy Director Sean Bothwell. “California communities are looking to the State Water Board to create the rulebook that will allow them to tap this affordable local water supply.”
The draft report was released on September 8, with both the advisory and expert panels agreeing that direct potable reuse is feasible in California. After gathering and reviewing public comments for several months, the State Water Board made no major changes in the final version.