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In a collaboration with Climate Desk, Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian, goes beyond the call of duty to recommend what could be the answer to Californias' water woes.

The golden state’s historic drought is forcing once-squeamish Californians to take a new look at “toilet-to-tap” water re-use. Or as they prefer to call it in Fountain Valley, “showers to flowers.”The town in conservative Orange County is home to the largest water recycling plant in the world and an example during this epic drought of the life-altering changes California will have to make to avoid running out of water.The first would be to get over the idea that water is an infinite resource, or that it pours out of the tap straight from a pristine, underground spring.

This is the third year of drought in the west. By July end, more than half of California fell into the worst category of “exceptional drought.”

The biggest challenge seems to be getting over the 'yuck' factor. I get that.
California law still does not allow the direct re-use of the water leaving the Orange County plant—even though it is purified to a higher standard than groundwater supplies. But the state regulator was looking to draft new rules to allow direct re-use of water by 2016.

“I think it is inevitable that Californians are going to have to get beyond this notion of just ‘toilet-to-tap,’” said David Feldman, who teaches water management at the University of California at Irvine.

“I think this plant is very important to protecting the strategic reserves of water. If we did not have this groundwater basin we would have to import virtually all of our water.”

Originally posted to beach babe in fl on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 01:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We get our water from the Colorado River... (21+ / 0-)

    And it amazes me that people don't realize every town/city on the Colorado both takes its water from the river and then dumps it treated (we hope) sewage back into the river.

    And besides what do you think those fish are doing in that water :)

    A mind like a book, has to be open to function properly.

    by falconer520 on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 01:33:16 PM PDT

  •  I've talked to sewage plant managers about this (7+ / 0-)

    I've seen the details, I know that the water is as pure as you can find from any municipal water supply, I know it's clean.

    But I'd have a hard time drinking it.

    Put it into a recharge system and get it into the underground water table. I can see that.

    But directly into the taps? A hard sell.

    Sales of bottled water will go through the roof.

    Any group with the word "Patriot" in its name, probably isn't.

    by Senor Unoball on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 01:43:10 PM PDT

  •  Do it (5+ / 0-)

    but don't tell me!

    I knew a guy who worked in the waterway that drew its water from a muddy river in the Midwest and he told me what the water looked like before they filtered and chlorined it.  Not good.

    Is it better to lose than be lost?

    by Publius2008 on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 01:45:29 PM PDT

  •  I used to live north of Amarillo, Tx (3+ / 0-)

    The city drew nearly all its water from Lake Meredith, a reservoir to the north that was built by damming off a canyon.  The lake was 103 feet deep when I lived there.

    The canyon sat in line with the prevailing winds, and a breeze at the top was tripled by the time you got down to water level.  Consequently, LOTS of people drowned at that lake.  As far as I know, no one ever stopped drinking the water....

    To the left, to the left....

    by CWinebrinner on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 01:54:40 PM PDT

  •  Wichita Falls already doing it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CWinebrinner, mrsgoo, MizC, Senor Unoball
    But once Wichita Falls started doing a daily blend of lake water with 5 million gallons of treated wastewater, most folks in town seemed to accept it with a shrug.
    The treated wastewater is transported by a 12-mile pipeline to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant, where it then is treated again. It can account for anywhere from 33 percent to 50 percent of demand on a given day, ...“The water coming out of our wastewater treatment plant is actually cleaner than the lake water it will be mixed with,” said Nix, who added that the water goes through a four-step treatment process and then is treated again after it is mixed with lake water.
    Big Spring already has a reuse program, blending 20 percent effluent into its drinking water. Other Texas cities, including Brownwood and El Paso, also have plans in the works.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:05:28 PM PDT

  •  Good idea (4+ / 0-)

    One of the simplest and cheapest ways to purify water is to simply let it trickle through a fine grade sand filter.  What runs out the bottom is 99% pure water.  The addition of just a drop of bleach or chlorine kills any bacteria or parasites.

    This is standard ground filtration.  The only difference is that ground filtration takes a much longer time, and anaerobic bacteria eat up any waste products left in the water while it's on its way down to the aquifer.

    To the left, to the left....

    by CWinebrinner on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:06:03 PM PDT

    •  you said: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The addition of just a drop of bleach or chlorine kills any bacteria or parasites.
      The toxic properties of bleach or chlorinated water depend on the aqueous concentration of total residual chlorine contained in the final volume of water.  

      First, there is a big difference between  a drop of bleach (which is sodium hypochlorite and which is mostly water) and a drop of liquid chlorine (as CL2).   I consider it unlikely that you have ever taken liquid chlorine and used it in this manner.

      However, the fundamental chemistry problem here is that the final volume of water to which you are adding a drop isn't known or specified.  

      The only way to ensure bacteria are killed is to ensure that the water has achieved a specific target level of total residual chlorine for a minimum interval of time.

  •  A couple more years of drought and it will become (6+ / 0-)

    very popular.

    if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

    by mrsgoo on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:10:08 PM PDT

    •  Hi mrsgoo! (4+ / 0-)

      Gosh, it's been ages since we talked.

      To amplify your point, I remember from hiking in the desert how the sun and the heat and the thirst make it real easy to ignore the dragonfly nymphs and the salt fleas and the rotting sedges when you finally stumble on that spring and start filtering up some water for your first drink since breakfast.  Technically you know that they are harmless, but those leering insect eyes can be off-putting under other circumstances.

      Vai o tatu-bola escamoso encontrar-me onde estou escondendo? Lembro-me do caminho de ouro, uma pinga de mel, meu amado Parati (-8.75,-8.36)

      by tarkangi on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:42:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hai! I just do not understand the yuck factor. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wu ming, tarkangi

        Most rivers that provide drinking water also are the conduit for dumping treated wastewater!  It was an eye opening experience when we attended the SWRCB meeting where the City of Red Bluff was wanting to renew their permit. Lots of slides showing how they diffuse the sewage they put into the Sacramento River. That the city of Sacramento diverts for drinking water downstream! LOL!!! #FFS! Think about the ISS. They recycle every single drop of moisture into drinking water for the astronauts. Glad to "see ya" ! It's science! We can turn piss into drinking water FFS!

        if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

        by mrsgoo on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 09:40:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cary NC draws its water from Lake Jordan (3+ / 0-)

    Durham NC has three waste treatment plants that pump treated sewage into tributaries of Lake Jordan.  

    Instead of allowing the sort of stream and lake action that occurs in that system, California siphons off the water to irrigate large agribusiness concerns.  And the poltiicians steadfastly put that ahead of the interests of the urban residents.

    The truth of the North Carolina situation is that the water from the waste treatment plants is cleaner than the runoff from all the parking lots and roofs upstream and much cleaner than the accumulated pollutants in Lake Jordan.

    The other thing to note is that in a drought condition, Durham contracts to purchase some of Cary's water, which comes from Lake Jordan.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:34:25 PM PDT

    •  Va Beach draws its water from Gaston/Kerr (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Senor Unoball

      Eventually all the coastal cities need to go desal. Sure it's expensive, but reliable source may be worth the extra cash in the short term, and in a couple of decades cost won't be a question.

      So long as we properly manage the brine....

      Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 02:47:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  At first I was squeamish, but knowing the process (2+ / 0-)

    I've become a lot more comfortable with it. You're talking about running it through a treatment plant where it comes out cleaner than most sources, then letting filter over a period of time into a groundwater aquifer, where it will mix with other primary sources for potentially (though not exactly I suppose) years, before it's finally pumped to the tap. Right now it's all diverted to grey water irrigation systems, which is completely fine.

  •  If it satisfies germophobe Singaporeans.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball

    ...then it's good enough for me.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 03:10:54 PM PDT

  •  I say sell this to Nestle... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball

    I say sell this to Nestle...

  •  You may talk o' gin and beer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball

    When you're livin' large out 'ere,
    An' you're sent to Lakers games an' Disneylan' it;
    But when Cali gets hotter
    You will drink your sewer water,
    An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.

    (apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

    Zeitgeist is the new paradigm

    by virginislandsguy on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 03:44:45 PM PDT

  •  Shades of Dune (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, TakeSake

    As California enters a period of Arrakis-like drought, we're going to have to get a lot less squeamish about our water.  In many places, aquifers are getting drained to the point that salt water can start flowing in.  This ruins them.

    It's a no brainer.  The process used in OC looks to be idea for this -- it uses a reverse osmosis process similar to desalinization, which takes out just about everything.  But since the waste water requires a lot less electricity to process (or even to pump across the state), this is probably the next step.

    A lot of people will have trouble with the idea, but this needs to happen.

    To be on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.

    by mbayrob on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 03:47:58 PM PDT

    •  Yes. It's inevitable and essential. THe way we (0+ / 0-)

      are currently draining irreplaceable aquifers, while acting as if they would last forever -- that's what's insane.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 06:29:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  With a large enough plant... (0+ / 0-)

      they could produce and store billions of dekaliters!

      The United States for All Americans

      by TakeSake on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 06:34:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  People will adapt to it ... (0+ / 0-)
  •  Good diary, VL Baker. (0+ / 0-)

    The sooner people accept these realities and deal with them, the better.

    --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

    by Fiona West on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 06:31:33 PM PDT

  •  Or you could figure out how to not put it into (0+ / 0-)

    sewage in the first place.

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