Recycled water hydrant.

Recycled water hydrant.

As we learned for #recycledwaterwednesday, “Water is cheap, maybe too cheap.” The biggest take away is hauling recycled water in 300 gallon loads is not economical. Even if you went with a larger truck load, like with Drought Savers, its still not priced appropriately. At no point in time will it be economical as you will exceed the weight limit on the road first. Better solutions must be found.

Today – lets discuss other ways to bring recycled water to the masses.

Open more fill stations!

Google map showing current Free Residential Recycled Water Fill Stations in the state of California. Have more? Leave their details in the comments below.

Of the 10 residential recycled water fill stations in the state of California, 9 of them are in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Three have said they’re waiting on their application to go through at the State Water Resource Control Board. Dublin San Ramon Services District (who started this residential fill station program) opened a second fill station in the city of Dublin, there-by bringing more water to more people.

If areas that were plumbed with recycled water would open fill stations, people could drive fewer miles to get the same liquid gold. City of San Ramon is currently the end of the pipe for DSRSD and supposedly there has been conversation to setup a fill station, but Jeff Gault – Operations Division Manager at the City of San Ramon said “I haven’t heard of any plans for a recycled filling station in San Ramon.  Currently, free recycled water is available to San Ramon residents from DSRSD at their facilities in Dublin and Pleasanton.”

The end of the recycled water pipeline for CCCSD is in Pleasant Hill, and nothing has been released publicly on opening a fill station there either.

Areas of San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles are plumbed with purple recycled water pipelines, but no word yet on residential fill stations. Ironically – all three locales probably don’t need any more traffic, but it would be an option that they could utilize.

Plumbing recycled water from treatment plant to… wherever

4/10’s mile radius from end of pipeline.

The cost to lay new purple pipe is expensive, especially in established neighborhoods and streets. Why? Between government red tape, easements and the cost of physically digging up the ground/road (making sure not to hit anything else) and laying in new pipe – it costs about ‘a million dollars a mile.’

Based upon the numbers from my last article – of the 3.28 million gallons hauled – its cost the fill station users about $400,000 to haul it. If that were put in to pipe laying terms… we’d get about 4/10’s of a mile.  For Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, that would extend their pipeline from Patterson Blvd in Pleasant Hill to about Putnam Blvd. Its not much, other options must be available.

Dublin San Ramon Services District is constantly spending millions to roll out more purple pipe in their service district. They need to. They were severely limited on their water delivery last year and now with their users continued conservation efforts they’ve reduced their water demand by 43%. DSRSD currently has 4 projects in construction, the latest being a $4 million project in west Dublin, California.

Crowd-source a pipe laying project

If only this would fly. Maybe if enough people got together and pushed the issue – we as a community could pay for these projects; but that’s what tax dollars are for.

Congressman Jerry McNerney has done just that. He represents California’s 9th district and asked congress for funding to start 27 recycled water projects in the area. These projects, when funded would open up 100,000 acre feet (32,585,100,000 gallons) of “new” water. I say “new” because recycled water isn’t new, you used it in your house about 24 hours ago. 🙂

This might just work if the right people are brought together. It’s worth a try. If it did happen, we would still have to pay to hook up recycled water to our properties. Homeowners aren’t big users though, so we may just be spinning our wheels and wasting time.

Plumb recycled water to high volume users

Pipeline already installed to oil refineries.

Pipeline already installed to oil refineries.

Now we’re talking. High volume users – like golf courses, airports, sports fields, community colleges, farms, schools, parks, oil refineries – these are the places where recycled water should be plumbed.

Golf courses with their vast green grasses and ponds and other water hungry features are prime candidates for recycled water. At Contra Costa Country Club Golf Course in Pleasant Hill, they used 55,886,820 gallons of recycled water in 2014. Buchanan Fields Golf Course used 25,688,115 gallons. You can see the complete list of their users and flow here: In 2014, CCCSD pumped out 151,321,836 gallons of recycled water. This makes the same amount of potable water available to our drinking water supply.

There is more that can be done however. In that same linked document, there is a section about the “Contra Costa County Refinery Recycled Water Project” which discusses serving Shell and Tesoro oil refineries with 20,000,000 gallons of recycled water per day for use in cooling towers and as boiler feed-water. 20 million gallons. Their current source for that water is from Contra Costa Water District who sends them “untreated delta water”. That is the same water that they use to make drinking water for the rest of us. Do you remember when a water main broke and flooded UCLA? That was a 20 million gallon flood. These refineries use that same volume of water every day.

The crazy part with all of this… there is already a pipeline in the ground to the refineries, look at this map:

Shell Oil and Tesoro should make a positive PR move and get the ball rolling to change their water source over from our drinking water supply – to recycled water. Tell them you want them to change – its good for the environment, its good for them and us.

Chevron, headquartered in San Ramon, California won an award from the WateReuse Association for “Recycled Water Customer of the Year” – nominated by East Bay Municipal Utility District. These oil companies compete against each other for our money when we buy gas, they should compete against each other by who can use the most recycled water – and be environmentally responsible in the process.

At home grey water recycling

You’ve seen the products all over the news – expensive appliances that takes your kitchen/bathroom sink water, shower/tub water and washing machine water, clean it to a level suitable for irrigation needs and use it in your yard. A perfect solution, as it reduces pumping and treatment costs, as long as you have an extra $10,000 laying around.

Blend recycled water with raw water sources

As apart of a wastewater treatment plants discharge permit – called a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit – the effluent must be cleaner than the water it is going into. Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (@RegionalSan) discharges their effluent into the Sacramento River, near the town of Freeport. Numerous other plants discharge to the same water way. Down the stream, drinking water providers pull water from the delta and treat it to drinking water standards. Technically they have already been blending recycled water for a long time.

If a water treatment plant is going to clean their raw water source anyways, why not take tertiary treated recycled water to Title 22 standards and let the water treatment plant clean it to drinking water standards. Its an idea, but more public education is required to bring it mainstream. Ironically – most people don’t know where their water comes from, so education is a step in the right direction.

Direct Potable Reuse / Indirect Potable Reuse

Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) and Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) are two processes that are in use today and work. They use similar treatment processes as used in a desalination plant and take recycled water from a wastewater treatment plant, clean it to a level that is cleaner than drinking water and then blend it with current drinking water supplies. The difference between the two is the time the water sits in the environment. DPR gets used now, IPR goes to another “holding tank” like a reservoir, lake, underground basin, etc before it its pumped out and used.

DPR was very successful in Wichita Falls, Texas – so successful in fact that they were the first in the nation to put DPR online. The equipment they set up was a temporary emergency measure, and now as their drought has subsided, they’re tearing it all out so they can put in a more permanent solution.

IPR was first setup in 1975 at “Water Factory 21” in Orange County, it processed 15 million gallons a day of “sewer water that ultimately meets or is better than drinking water standards” for nearly 30 years. It was shutdown in 2007 to make way for the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment System plant in Fountain Valley, California. Waste water is cleaned to a drinkable water quality and injected into the ground for about a year until it is pumped out and sent to a water treatment plant. They produce 70 million gallons a day, enough for 600,000 residents in north and central Orange County, California. If you happen to go for a tour at the end you can drink the water.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District just opened the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center which produces a water so clean, there is absolutely nothing in it, except good ol’ H2O. NBC Bay Area took a sample of water and had it tested by an independent lab and their results came up negative.


There are some options available for bringing recycled water to the masses, but more should be done. Get involved by calling your local treatment plant or Congressmen to find out what you can do to help these projects along.