Recycled Water Plays Important Role in California’s Water Supply Options

by | Oct 24, 2018

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With the devasting impacts of unleashed groundwater pumping and climate change as a backdrop, this year California policy makers took steps to both improve the state’s water future and kick the can down the road.

For example, Governor Brown signed two bills to establish per-person indoor water use goals, create incentives for water suppliers to recycle water, and require urban and agricultural water suppliers to set annual water budgets and prepare for drought. The California State Water Resources Control Board also adopted requirements of local water suppliers to ensure the safe use of treated recycled water to augment surface water supplies.

However, the California 2017-18 legislative session ended without passage of bills to fund safe and affordable drinking water for the hundreds of thousands of residents that don’t have simple access to this necessity. This complicated issue is likely to return again next session.

Californians’ concerns about water suggests that the public is ready for serious measures to expand water supplies. This is good news for the agencies that supply water to homes, businesses, and farms, and for the policymakers who want to help make that happen.

A survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence of more than 1,000 California residents found that 90% of respondents are concerned about future water shortages, and almost as many people reported that they are willing to use recycled water in their daily lives.

The survey also revealed that most Californians (87%) are more inclined to use recycled water for cooking or drinking after learning more about the process that makes treated wastewater safe for personal use.

This is an important finding. When the public understands how purification systems make water safe to use at home, they are likely to support measures to make it widely available.

Californians across the political spectrum support recycled water as a long-term sustainable solution, regardless of water shortages. If doing the right thing is good, getting paid for it is even better. Nearly 90 percent support providing financial incentives to households that use recycled water.

Some California water agencies have stepped out as leaders by providing a more sustainable local supply through recycled water. However, many do not. With droughts in California’s future, there is more work to do. Leveraging public support for recycled water can help get it done.

By Ron Askin, Vice President, Water Utilities for North America; Xylem Inc.

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