San Diego to Recycle Toilet Water into Tap Water

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Drought, United States Water News, Water Conservation, Water Crisis
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Facing the worst drought in a century, San Diego will recycle and purify waste water into drinking water. (Photo credit: KSWB/CNN)

Article courtesy of MS News Now | November 19, 2014 | MS News Now | Shared as educational material

SAN DIEGO (KSWB/CNN) – The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to go ahead with a plan to recycle wastewater for drinking.

The project will make San Diego one of the few cities in the country to supply its own water.

The third year of California’s worst drought in a century has the state’s reservoirs at record lows.

Now San Diego will be one of the few cities in the Golden State that will recycle its sewage and return it to the drinking supply.

“This city has been presented with an incredible opportunity to gain water independence. The ability to control our own water supply for the very first time,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

Right now San Diego’s wastewater goes through the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment plant. The wastewater is cleaned, but not well enough for drinking, so it gets dumped into the ocean.

The pure water project would instead allow San Diego to purify its wastewater and reuse it for drinking.

“I mean where do people think Las Vegas’ sewage goes? After they treat it, it goes into the Colorado and then by the time we get it – it’s not only got that but it’s got a whole lot of agriculture and industrial runoff. And you know we hold it in our reservoirs and then we put it through our drinking water systems,” said Marco Gonzalez, of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation.

Despite being an environmentally sound drought proof water supply, it hasn’t been an easy sell.

“It’s something we need to open, complete public debate on,” attorney John Stump said.

Stump says the $4 billion dollar project still has a lot of unanswered questions.

“San Diegans are already struggling with housing affordability now you’re going to raise everybody’s water and sewer rates and the other thing they haven’t talked about yet is they’re about to raise the storm water rates. So it’s going to be hit after hit on the housing costs,” Stump said.

San Diego currently imports 85 percent of its water from the Bay Delta and the Colorado River. By 2016, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant will potentially provide the region with 50 million gallons of water per day, which is 7 percent of the water the city uses.

“With technologies available now, reverse osmosis and advanced treatment we can make that much cleaner than the water we currently import,” Gonzales said.

The Orange County Water District in southern California has recycled wastewater for drinking since 2008.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District in the Bay Area is also considering the idea.

The pure water project will be installed during three phases over the next 20 years.

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