Calif. Greenies Hatch 'Toilet-to-Tap' Plan Amid Enforced Daily Waste of Fresh Rain Water to Save Fish


How thirsty would you have to be to be willing to drink recycled sewer water?

If you live in California, you might need to decide the answer to that question sooner rather than later.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday announced proposed regulations “that would allow for water systems to add wastewater that has been treated to levels meeting or exceeding all drinking water standards to their potable supplies.”

“The process … will enable systems to generate a climate-resilient water source while reducing the amount of wastewater they release to rivers and the ocean,” the board’s news release said.

The release referred to the process as “direct potable reuse,” but media outlets dredged up a more colorful term for the process: “toilet to tap.”

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Other organizations and individuals have proposed alternative solutions to what seems like an extreme measure.

Drought-starved California was hammered by trillions of gallons of precipitation last winter, according to the Los Angeles Times, but environmental regulations forced the release of most of it into the ocean as part of a strategy to preserve endangered fish such as the delta smelt.

Lawmakers, particularly in the agricultural regions in the heart of the state, have introduced legislation to preserve more of California’s rainwater in reservoirs and aqueducts, according to the Times.

But Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is looking to “recycled water” as a key part of his water supply strategy, with the goal of reusing at least 800,000 acre-feet of water per year by 2030, according to the water board’s announcement.

Would you taste the water resulting from California's new plan?

The term “toilet to tap” has been bandied about for several decades, whenever drought conditions have prompted officials to consider various plans to recycle wastewater, according to the California Water Environment Association, which traced the history of its use in an article on its website.

Media outlets pounced on the nomenclature to paint a catchy, vivid word picture of the concept, and, of course, the phrase has provided plenty of fodder for late-night talk show comedians, the association noted.

The state water board’s announcement said California currently has wastewater recycling projects that employ a technique called indirect potable reuse, which involves distributing treated wastewater over time “through groundwater recharge or dilution with surface water.”

A 2022 report by National Geographic described an example of that process in a story about a plant in Orange County, where an official demonstrated his confidence in the treatment process by gulping down a cup of liquid.

“An hour and a half ago, this was treated sewage,” he boasted. “A day ago, it was raw sewage.”

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Despite the official’s declaration of its purity, the treated water from that plant was destined to spend six months as groundwater before being chlorinated and sent through the public water supply.

The newly proposed toilet-to-tap system, however, would involve a much shorter turnaround time.

“Direct potable reuse relies entirely on immediate, multi-barrier treatment that can recycle wastewater to drinking water standards in a matter of hours,” the announcement said.

The board’s statement said California had assembled “an expert panel of 12 scientists and engineers” that had “determined that the proposed regulations are protective of public health.”

A spokesman for the program explained that the purification process would be safe and effective.

“[W]e have been careful and thorough to produce regulations that ensure, down to a chemical level, that water treated to these standards will be pure and wholesome,” Darrin Polhemus, deputy director for the Division of Drinking Water, said, according to the release.

“In fact,” he added, “the extensive treatment requirements we’ve proposed mean that direct potable reuse processes in California will produce water of higher quality and lower risk than many traditional drinking water sources.”

The board said the proposed regulations are open for public comment, and it will consider adopting them “before the end of the year.”

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Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.
Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.