One of the elements identified in the Water Authority’s resource mix is the optimization of recycled water use. Every gallon of recycled water used within the region reduces the need to import or develop other water supplies.
A number of water and wastewater agencies in San Diego County are implementing and expanding their water recycling projects. Approximately 30,000 acre feet of recycled water is beneficially reused within the Water Authority's service area annually. This number is projected to increase to over 43,000 acre feet per year by 2020.
Water recycling is the treatment and disinfection of municipal wastewater to provide a water supply suitable for non-drinking purposes. Agencies in San Diego County use recycled water to fill lakes, ponds, and ornamental fountains; to irrigate parks, campgrounds, golf courses, freeway medians, community greenbelts, school athletic fields, food crops, and nursery stock; and to control dust at construction sites. Recycled water can also be used in certain industrial processes and for flushing toilets and urinals in non-residential buildings. As an example, there are a few local bio-tech firms that have dual-plumbed their buildings to allow the use of recycled water for toilet and urinal flushing and for use in their cooling towers. Additional uses for recycled water are being identified and investigated such as the use of recycled water for street sweeping purposes.
The Water Authority has been a member of the WateReuse Association, California Section since its inception in 1991. The WateReuse Association is dedicated to increasing the amount of recycled water to help augment the world's limited water resources. The organization has a broad spectrum of members from public agencies to individuals who work in the field of water recycling or support its use.
The WateReuse Association is recognized as one of the leading advocates for the water recycling industry. Its objectives are to work for the adoption of legislation and regulations allowing the safe use of recycled water; to facilitate the development of technology to improve water recycling; to promote legislation to increase funding for water recycling projects; and to increase public awareness and understanding of water recycling.
Aside from its involvement and membership at the National and State levels of WateReuse, the Water Authority is also an active participant in the San Diego Chapter of WateReuse. The mission of the local chapter is to provide a forum for the exchange of information to promote the beneficial use of recycled water in the San Diego region. Information on locally scheduled meetings and events can be found at: www.watereuse.org/sections/california/sandiego.
Two state agencies have primary responsibility for regulating the application and use of recycled water: the California Department of Public Health (DPH) and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Planning and implementing water recycling projects entail numerous interactions with these regulatory agencies prior to project approval.
The DPH establishes the statewide effluent bacteriological and treatment reliability standards for recycled water uses in Title 22 of the California Administrative Code. Under Title 22, the standards are established for each general type of use based on the potential for human contact with recycled water. The highest degree of standards for recycled water is for unrestricted body contact. Contact information: (619) 525-4159. For recycled water regulations and guidance, go to: https://pubapps.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/RecycledWater.shtml.
The Regional Board is charged with establishing and enforcing requirements for the application and use of recycled water within the state. Permits are required from the Regional Board for each water recycling operation. As part of the permit application process, applicants are required to demonstrate that the proposed recycled water operation will not exceed the ground and surface water quality objectives in the basin management plan, and that it is in compliance with Title 22 requirements. Contact information: (858) 467-2952.
A local regulatory agency, the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) regulates the use of recycled water through a delegation agreement with DPH. For more information, go to: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/deh/lwqd/lu_recycled_water.html.