California approves “toilet-to-faucet” treated wastewater back into people’s homes

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Who ever said that Californians are full of shit?

Officials in the Golden State this week approved new “toilet-to-faucet” regulations, allowing water agencies to take wastewater from homes, recycle it and pump it back into households in an effort to boost the state’s dwindling water supply.

“It’s really going to be the highest quality water delivered in the state when it’s done,” said Darin Polhemus, director of the Division of Drinking Water and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Despite some consumer concern, officials have ensured the scheme is safe as the waste water goes through three rigorous stages of treatment.

The water is treated for pathogens and viruses in a way that officials say is so thorough that minerals actually have to be added back to improve the taste.

“If one fails, there are still two that stay in its place as backups to make sure nothing goes untreated,” Polhemus said.

Lakeisha Bryant, public information representative for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, holds flasks of water before and after it is treated at the Silicon Valley Pretreatment Center on December 13, 2023. AP
The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Treatment Facility in South San Francisco is one of the facilities throughout California where the wastewater treatment will take place. Various photography – stock.adobe.com

California is notoriously drought-prone and depends on water from other states via the Colorado River.

However, 2023 brought an extraordinary amount of rain, and by October the state was more than 99 percent drought-free, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although the water will be more expensive than imported water, the supply is more renewable and reliable, according to CalMatters.

California is the second state to allow the process, after Colorado.

Water experts condemn the “toilet to water” brand and say the purified water will be perfectly safe for consumption. Pixel-Shot – stock.adobe.com
The treated water will be pumped directly to millions of California homes, schools and businesses. Getty Images

California has used recycled water for decades for vegetable and fruit crops and to irrigate lawns, but this will be the first time the technology will be used directly for drinking water.

“I would hesitate to drink that water for the rest of my life,” said Daniel McCurry, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California.

Since building treatment facilities is expensive and time-consuming, larger cities like San Diego and the Silicon Valley/Bay Area that have the funding will be among the first to make the transition.

A storage tank at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Treatment Center in South San Francisco, which is part of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Various photography – stock.adobe.com

That means nearly half of San Diego’s water supply will be recycled water by 2035, officials said.

“Drought happens all the time and with climate change it’s only going to get worse,” Kirsten Struve of the Santa Clara Valley Water District told ABC. “This is a drought-resilient supply that we will need in the future to meet the needs of our communities.”

With pole cables





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