California is set to become 2nd state to allow turning wastewater into drinking water

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By ADAM BEAM | Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — When a toilet is flushed in California, the water can end up in a lot of places — the ice in a skating rink, the manufactured snow on ski slopes, in pipes providing irrigation for farmland. And — coming soon — in your drinking glass.

California regulators on Tuesday are set to vote on new rules to let water agencies recycle wastewater and put it right back into the pipes that carry drinking water to homes, schools and businesses.

It’s a big step for a state that has struggled for decades to have a reliable source of drinking water for its more than 39 million residents. And it signals a shift in public opinion on a subject that as recently as two decades ago prompted backlash that scuttled similar projects.

Since then, California has been through multiple extreme droughts, including the most recent one that scientists say was the driest three-year period on record and left the state’s reservoirs at dangerously low levels.

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“Water is so precious in California. It is important that we use it more than once,” said Jennifer West, managing director of WateReuse California, a group advocating for recycled water.

California has been using recycled wastewater for decades. The Ontario Reign minor league hockey team has used it to make ice for its rink in Southern California. Soda Springs Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe has used it to make snow. And farmers in the Central Valley, where much of the nation’s vegetables, fruits and nuts are grown, use it to water their crops.

But it hasn’t been used directly for drinking water. Orange County operates a large water purification system that recycles wastewater and then uses it to refill underground aquifers. The water mingles with the groundwater for months before being pumped up and used for drinking water again.

California’s new rules would let — but not require — water agencies to take wastewater, treat it, and then put it right back into the drinking water system. California would be just the second state to allow this, following Colorado.



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