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Update: California Allows Wastewater Recycling For Drinking Water

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Update at 4:15 p.m.: California regulators have approved new rules to let water agencies recycle wastewater and put it back into the pipes that carry drinking water to homes, schools and businesses. The state’s new rules require the wastewater to be treated for all pathogens and viruses, even if they are not in the wastewater. It is a change from regular water treatment rules, which only require treatment for known pathogens, advised California Water Resources Control Board officials. They added that the treatment is so stringent that it removes all of the minerals that make fresh drinking water taste good, so those will need to be added back at the end of the process.

These water treatment facilities are expensive and time-consuming to build, so it is expected that only larger, well-funded cities will be able to afford the switch initially.

Original post: 12-19-23 at  8:34 a.m.:  Sacramento, CA — State regulators will vote on changes today that would allow wastewater from toilets to be cleaned and recycled into drinking water.

Currently, wastewater is allowed only for specific uses, such as farmland irrigation. The change is being proposed as drought has challenged California’s water supply at times over the past decade. A similar proposal was denied two decades ago after backlash from state residents.

In addition to agricultural use, wastewater is also currently used for things like filling ice rinks, and making snow at some ski resorts.

The change would not mandate the recycling of wastewater but would allow water districts to do it if they choose.

If approved, California would be the second state to allow this, following Colorado.

The Associated Press reports that it is both time-consuming and expensive to build wastewater recycling plants, so it would most likely only be an option for larger, well-funded, water agencies.

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