Final Report Moves California Closer to Nation’s First Statewide Direct Potable Reuse Regulations

Waterkeeper organizations urge State Water Resource Control Board to adopt policies making drought-resilient water supply available for entire state

ORANGE COUNTY, January 10, 2017 — Late last year, the California State Water Resource Control Board released its final report to the California Legislature, concluding that it is feasible to produce safe, recycled drinking water in California through direct potable reuse. According to Orange County Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance, this report paves the way for California to become more drought-resilient by investing in a local, cost-effective water supply alternative. The new report outlines water-recycling criteria specifically for direct potable reuse, which no other state has developed so far.

Currently, through indirect potable reuse, purified recycled water is used to replenish aquifers – which act as a buffer before water is pumped to the drinking water treatment facility. Direct potable reuse would allow treated water to be put into the drinking water system without the use of an environmental buffer.

“With the final report confirming that direct potable reuse is possible, California has the opportunity to become the pioneer of advanced purified recycled water,” says Garry Brown, Orange County Coastkeeper executive director and chair of the Direct Potable Reuse Advisory Panel. “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.”

Indirect potable reuse already purifies more than 65 billion gallons of recycled water per year through eight projects throughout California, including the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System, the world’s largest highly advanced treated water recycling system. Coastkeeper says direct potable reuse would allow more counties to develop a reliable local water supply – even without an environmental buffer like an aquifer or lake.

“Recycled water is a drought-proof water source that will help California thrive in a drier future, and this report confirms we can safely produce drinkable recycled water,” says California Coastkeeper Alliance Policy Director Sean Bothwell. “California communities are looking to the State Water Board to create the rulebook that will allow them to tap this affordable local water supply."

The draft report was released on September 8, with both the advisory and expert panels agreeing that direct potable reuse is feasible in California. After gathering and reviewing public comments for several months, the State Water Board made no major changes in the final version.

While an expert panel identified several areas where more research is needed, the State Division of Drinking Water said research can continue simultaneous to the development of criteria for California’s first advanced treated water facility for direct potable reuse. All parties involved are committed to a process that ensures public safety is the utmost concern. The newly released report contains six recommendations from the expert panel and 19 recommendations from the advisory panel.

Orange County Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance say adopting direct potable reuse will greatly help California meet the State Water Board’s mandate to increase the use of recycled water by 200,000 acre-foot per year by 2020 and an additional 300,000 acre-foot per year by 2030.

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ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit www.coastkeeper.org or call 714-850-1965.

CALIFORNIA COASTKEEPER ALLIANCE: California Coastkeeper Alliance unites local Waterkeeper programs to fight for swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters for California communities and ecosystems. www.cacoastkeeper.org