Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed legislation designed to advance the use of recycled water statewide, especially for use as drinking water.
Senate Bill 322, carried by State Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego, is expected to expedite a transparent and rigorous scientific assessment of “potable reuse” as a potential water source.
“California needs more high quality water and recycling is key to getting there,” Brown said in his signing message that urged state agency officials to move quickly.
The new law is particularly important in San Diego County, where water suppliers such as Santee's Padre Dam Municipal Water District are assessing ways to augment traditional water sources with advanced treated purified water.
Partially treated wastewater is commonly used for irrigation and industrial purposes; the scientific question addressed by SB 322 is whether higher levels of treatment would make it safe to add repurified water directly into raw water supplies being delivered to treatment plants that produce drinking water.
Padre Dam has announced a proposed aquifer recharge project, known as an "indirect potable reuse project" (IPR), wherein they would pump recycled water treated with reverse osmosis into an aquifer under Santee, where it would be naturally purified and then treated again prior to distribution. Padre Dam has said it hopes to get 1.8 million gallons a day from that project.
According to the Padre Dam website: "Padre Dam produces two million gallons of recycled water every day. Approximately one million gallons per day goes into the seven lakes at Santee Lakes. The rest of the recycled water produced at our Water Recycling Facility is used on irrigation for community parks, schools, city streetscapes and community decorative fountains."
“Finding ways to increase abundance of water in California is certainly challenging, but very doable,” Hueso said. “SB 322 will improve the way California looks at water quality and water use.”
SB 322 requires the state Department of Public Health to convene an expert panel and investigate the development of uniform criteria for direct potable reuse. A stakeholder advisory group will also be formed to ensure that the expert panel’s work will be done in an open and transparent manner. A public draft of the agency’s report is due by Sept. 1, 2016, and a report to the Legislature is due Dec. 31, 2016.
“The Water Authority sponsored this legislation because it opens the door for safely developing more than 100,000 acre-feet a year of drought-proof drinking water in the San Diego region,” said Toby Roy, a water resources manager for the Water Authority. “Thanks to Sen. Hueso, this legislation ensures thorough scientific analysis that will safeguard our water supplies as we look to expand them through recycling.”
Water recycling is identified as an important piece of the regional strategy to increase water supply reliability by developing a portfolio of water resources instead of relying too heavily on a single source. In 2020, Water Authority projects that 6 percent of the regional water demand will be met by recycling, up from 4 percent in 2013. Other elements of the supply diversification plan include groundwater development, seawater desalination and conservation.
A San Diego County Water Authority press release contributed to this post.