Text by Sara Jerome / Retrieved from Water Online
As 80 percent of California continues to languish in drought conditions, state regulators are a step closer to allowing the practice of direct potable reuse (DPR).
Water regulators submitted a report to the legislature last month on the feasibility of this practice. An expert panel convened by the state provided information for the report. The report cited the expert panel as finding that “it is technically feasible to develop uniform water recycling criteria for DPR in California” while protecting public health.
The report stated that “the use of recycled water for DPR has great potential but it presents very real scientific and technical challenges that must be addressed to ensure the public’s health is reliably protected at all times.”
The report also found that more research is needed before DPR can become a reality in California.
“The final report lays the groundwork for creating regulations for potable water. But the adoption of regulations related to the direct potable reuse of recycled water will not take place until additional research is conducted related to specific public health issues,” according to a release from the State Water Resources Control Board.
Environmentalists praised the release of the report. Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper executive director and member of the state’s direct potable reuse advisory panel, said in a statement: “With the final report confirming that direct potable reuse is possible, California has the opportunity to become the pioneer of advanced purified recycled water. 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.”
At this point, there are only two permanent DPR projects operating in the world, according to the California report. One is in Texas, and the other is in Windhoek, Namibia.
The practice of turning wastewater into potable water is already underway in California, but facilities do not yet provide the product directly to faucets.
Orange County Water District and other water providers “are already making wastewater potable. But current state regulations require the water be pumped into groundwater basins before it can be delivered to homes. Taste tests before that step are allowed only at the recycling facility. A new law in January would allow districts to bottle 1,000 gallons of purified recycled water a year,” Capital Public Radio recently reported.
The bottled water is used for educational purposes to acquaint customers with the sometimes-stigmatized idea of drinking recycled wastewater.
“A lot of people have an apprehension about the water, wondering whether it’s safe because of the source that it’s coming from,” said Mike Markus, general manager with the Orange County Water District, per the report.