San Diego, San Francisco Bay planning toilet-to-tap water reuse


In urban areas where water is scarce, it just makes sense to clean wastewater and make it drinkable again. Las Vegas has done this out of necessity for years. All household water including what is flushed down toilets is cleaned up, pumped back into Lake Mead and reused over and over. There is no yuck factor. I live in Vegas and the water is quite drinkable.

In areas where there isn’t a nearby huge lake to pump water into then reservoirs or aquifers can be used for storage. Orange County CA already reclaims 70 million gallons a day and is expanding that to 100 million. The San Diego City Council just approved a $2.5 billion plan, starting with 15 gallons a day by 2023. The San Jose CA area is building a similar facility. Toilet-to-tap is idea whose time has come.

San Diego, a city of 1.4 million people that imports 85 percent of its water from the Colorado River and Northern California, has slowly warmed to the idea. A 2012 survey by the San Diego County Water Authority showed that nearly three of four residents favored turning wastewater into drinking water, a major shift from one of four in a 2005 survey.

“The drought puts a finer point on why this is so necessary,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “Droughts are unfortunately a way of life in California, so we have to be prepared. This helps us to control our own destiny.”

Southern Nevada is allocated a mere 2% of water from Lake Mead. However, any water that it reuses doesn’t count against the allotment.

Every day, about 100 million gallons of raw sewage is treated by the Clark County Water Reclamation District, which cleans sewage water for unincorporated Southern Nevada. This district has seven facilities and serves rural communities as well as a vast swath of the valley, including the Strip.

Roughly 90 million gallons of reclaimed water is released daily into the Las Vegas Wash, replenishing Lake Mead with billions of gallons every year. In exchange, we are allowed to take that much more water out of the lake, over and above our preset allotment.

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