New Report Finds Water Recycling Regulations Feasible for Direct Potable Reuse

Waterkeeper organizations say it’s a step toward localized water resiliency for California

ORANGE COUNTY, October 4, 2016 — On September 8, the California State Water Resource Control Board released its draft report concluding that it is feasible to develop uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse in California. Orange County Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance are pleased to see this economic and environmentally preferred method to securing California’s future water sources moving forward.

In California, recycled water is already used for non-potable purposes, such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, in a practice known as purple pipe recycled water. In order for recycled water to be used for drinking, facilities must treat the water to a much higher level than purple pipe water, creating what is known as advanced treated water. Currently, through indirect potable reuse, advanced treated water is used to replenish natural lakes, reservoirs and aquifers – which act as an environmental buffer before water is pumped out and sent to the drinking water treatment facility. Direct potable reuse would allow advanced treated water to be put into the drinking water system without the use of an environmental buffer.

To develop the criteria needed to build California’s first advanced treated water facility for direct potable reuse, the state established two panels to advise the Division of Drinking Water. The expert panel, composed of academic professionals and scientists, focuses on scientific issues. The advisory panel, composed of water agency, business and environmental leaders, focuses on issues such as operator training, certification and public outreach. Both committees concluded that direct potable reuse is feasible in California.

“Making advanced treated water available for direct potable reuse opens the opportunity to purify water for all communities in California — which is what we need,” says Orange County Coastkeeper Executive Director and Chair of the Direct Potable Reuse Advisory Panel Garry Brown. “Orange County has seen great success with its Groundwater Replenishment System, but there are many regions that don’t have an aquifer that can act as an environmental buffer like we do.”

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.

“The scientific findings in this report confirm what we have long been telling our decision makers — California is ready to lead the nation in creating advanced treated water,” says California Coastkeeper Alliance Policy Director Sean Bothwell. “This will be a modern, drought-resilient water supply alternative to costly ocean desalination and imported water.”

While the expert panel identified several areas where more research is needed, the State Division of Drinking Water said that 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.

The final report is anticipated to be submitted to the legislature by the end of this year. 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.


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 or call 714-850-1965.

CALIFORNIA COASTKEEPER ALLIANCE: California Coastkeeper Alliance unites local Waterkeeper programs to achieve swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters for all Californians.