CALIFORNIA—The severe drought affecting the state has prompted officials to consider recycling sewage water for tap water. This is a process that has been successful in Orange County, as well as Texas. The water recycling system has been unsuccessfully proposed in the past.
The idea has been met with opposition. Back in 2000, opponents used the phrase “toilet to tap” to describe the system. With the water supply dwindling and Governor Jerry Brown’s recent 25 percent urban water usage cuts, California water managers and environmentalist are proposing it once again.
California’s sewage water is flushed into the Pacific Ocean. The process of water recycling, known as potable reuse, involves a three-step purification system which purifies sewage water into drinking water. In the first step of the process the water goes through a micro filter, removing bacteria. Next, it undergoes reverse osmosis which rids the water of viruses, pharmaceuticals, and other material.
In the last part of the filtration process, the water is further purified using ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide. The system can yield up to 1.1 million acre-feet of water annually by 2020. Similar processes are used in California solely for irrigation and golf courses.
Opponents are concerned over the water’s trace amounts of drug compounds, hormones, and other material that could be left behind. Proponents like WateReuse California claim that the water produced by the system would result in water cleaner than bottled water.
There are reports that Los Angeles is planning to build a large water treatment facility. A panel is reported to be working to offer a report to the state legislature for 2016. The system lacks any regulatory framework for its approval and may not result in a decision for several years.