State Mulls Converting Sewage to Drinking Water

With the drought still in effect, the State Water Resources Control Board gets its hands dirty looking for solutions.

Luke Jones/Flickr

With the Bay Area experiencing a relatively wet and lush winter, it’s easy to forget that nearly half of California is still suffering from extreme and exceptional drought levels. That’s why the State Water Resources Control Board is moving forward on a revolutionary new plan to develop and adopt measures to convert recycled water into drinking water.  

People, realize that “recycled water” is just a more pleasant-sounding euphemism for wastewater, or sewage.

To be fair, municipal wastewater contains more than just sewage. Wastewater is also made up of greywater from sinks, showers, dishwashers, and washing machines. While none of this sounds particularly palatable to drink, it would represent an enormous and untapped source of additional water for the drought-ravaged state.

“Recycled water is part of a multi-faceted effort to diversify California’s water supplies and increase long-term resilience,” the board said in a release. “Direct potable reuse (DPR) is the addition of recycled water directly into a drinking water system or into a raw water supply immediately upstream of a drinking water treatment plant. No other state has yet developed regulations specifically for direct potable reuse.”

This does not mean that California will immediately begin introducing recycled water into the drinking water ecosystem. What it means is that the State Water Resources Control Board has released a 62-page report concluding that the conversion of recycled water to drinking water is indeed scientifically feasible, but that more research is required to improve purification processes and avoid public health hazards.

The city of San Francisco already uses recycled water to irrigate parks, to fill toilets and urinals, for street cleaning, and a number of other non-drinking purposes.

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