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California drought: How recycled wastewater for drinking could help combat dwindling supplies

SAN JOSE, California – We recycle containers, bottles, paper and some plastics. However, most of our sewage goes down the drain where it is discharged into a bay or into the ocean. California has not yet developed regulations that allow the use of recycled water for drinking, but a wholesaler of water in the Bay Area and many cities see it as a critical step as a result of persistent drought and declining water supplies.

“As people flush, we continue to generate more water. This is very important. Hopefully, we plan to ensure that it will be about 10% of our water supply in the coming years,” said Valley Water CEO Tony Estremera.

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Valley Water and the city of San Jose invested $ 72 million to open an Advanced Water Purification Center in 2014. It receives treated wastewater and processes it so that it can be used by industrial and agricultural customers.

“We send it in microfiltration, which has a pore size 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and this small pore can remove bacteria, protozoa and large viruses and any other large particles in this water,” explains Valley. Water. Associate Engineer Zach Helsley.
Two more steps, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light, transform turbid wastewater into clear water.

The facility is extremely quiet, but operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and produces eight million gallons of clean water per day. By law, state regulators must pave the way for indirect drinking water reuse by next year. The goal is to pump it into underground tanks where it is mixed with groundwater and water is introduced for final use as drinking water. The city of Palo Alto is partnering with Valley Water for its own water treatment plant.

RELATED: About 6 million Californians ordered to reduce water use amid drought

“We want to pump clean water to the groundwater basins in Campbell along Los Gatos Creek,” said Kirsten Struve of Valley Water.

The ultimate step will be to close the loop and introduce recycled water directly into our drinking water. To help people overcome the so-called yuck factor, Valley Water tours its cleaning plant to familiarize the public with the process. The effort seems to help.
A poll last year found that 58 percent approve of the use of clean water, while 31 percent oppose it and 11 percent are undecided.

“We are blessed in Silicon Valley. People believe in science, and so we find that once people understand the process, they understand it,” says Estremera.
It will require a change in thinking about wastewater as a resource for recycling.

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