Water containing wastes – aka wastewater – from residential,
commercial and industrial processes requires treatment to remove
pollutants prior to discharge. After treatment, the water is
suitable for nonconsumption (nonpotable) and even potable use.
In California, water recycling is a critical component of the
state’s efforts to use water supplies more efficiently. The state
presently recycling about 669,000 acre-feet of water per year and
has the potential to reuse an additional two million acre-feet
Non-potable uses include:
landscape and crop irrigation
stream and wetlands enhancement
recreational lakes, fountains and decorative ponds
toilet flushing and gray water applications
as a barrier to protect groundwater supplies
from seawater intrusion
wetland habitat creation, restoration, and maintenance
For more than 30 years, wastewater from oil and gas operations
has been used to irrigate food crops in California. Regulators
will re-examine the safety of that practice during a public
A company that has trained dogs to recognize the smell of human
fecal bacteria has been sniffing out sources of water pollution
nationwide, discovering broken sewer pipes, leaking septic
tanks and illegal sewage discharges, to the delight of
environmental groups and government agencies.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls nutrient
pollution the “single greatest challenge to our nation’s water
quality.” Rising concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in
waterways, the agency reports, are a significant threat to
human health, ecosystems, and local economies.
It is now possible to imagine a future in which highly treated
wastewater will be plumbed directly into California homes as a
new drinking water supply. On September 8, the State Water
Resources Control Board released a long-awaited report on the
feasibility of so-called “direct potable reuse.”
I [John Holland] drove out past Merced last year to see a dairy
farmer testing a new idea. He irrigated 40 acres of feed corn
with drip lines, which are much more common in orchards and
vineyards than annual crops.
In rural areas with widely dispersed houses, reliance upon a
sewer system is not practical compared to individual
wastewater treatment methods. These on-site management facilities
– or septic systems – are more commonplace given their simpler
structure, efficiency and easy maintenance.
Microplastics – plastic debris
measuring less than 5 millimeters – are an
increasing water quality concern. Entering the water as
industrial microbeads or as larger plastic litter that degrade
into small pellets, microplastics come from a variety of
Directly detecting harmful pathogens in water can be expensive,
unreliable and incredibly complicated. Fortunately, certain
organisms are known to consistently coexist with these harmful
microbes which are substantially easier to detect and culture:
coliform bacteria. These generally non-toxic organisms are
frequently used as “indicator
species,” or organisms whose presence demonstrates a
particular feature of its surrounding environment.
The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of water determines the
impact of decaying matter on species in a specific ecosystem.
Sampling for BOD tests how much oxygen is needed by bacteria to
break down the organic matter.
Point sources release pollutants from discrete conveyances, such
as a discharge pipe, and are regulated by federal and state
agencies. The main point source dischargers are factories and
sewage treatment plants, which release treated
The first test of ocean water following a massive California
sewage spill came back clean Wednesday, suggesting stinky
sludge that drained into the Los Angeles River didn’t flow 20
miles to the coast, officials said.
A damaged sewage line spilled a total of
about 2.4 million gallons of untreated
waste into the Los Angeles River and has
forced the closure of all beaches in Long Beach and Seal
Beach, officials said Tuesday.
Organizers of a petition drive to ban the practice of
irrigating crops with recycled oil field wastewater will be
pitching their cause on Saturday morning to customers at
markets in nine cities across the state, including a
Ralph’s in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned the
disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste water at public sewage
plants, formalizing a voluntary practice that removed most
fracking waste from Pennsylvania plants starting in 2011. The
EPA on Monday finalized a rule that prevents operators from
disposing of waste from unconventional oil & gas operations at
publicly owned treatment works [POTW's].
Settling a major lawsuit from environmentalists, San Jose city
officials on Tuesday agreed to spend more than $100 million
over the next decade and beyond to reduce tons of trash that
flows into creeks and San Francisco Bay, repair miles of
leaking underground sewage pipes and clean stormwater
contaminated with harmful bacteria.
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District hired
Dragados USA to build a biological nutrient removal station,
part of a larger $1.5 billion to $2 billion effort to meet
stricter state standards on wastewater pollutants discharged
into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing in its
mandate to protect underground drinking water reserves from
oilfield contamination, according to a federal review singling
out lax EPA oversight in California, where the state routinely
allowed oil companies to dump wastewater into some drinking
By a unanimous vote, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water
District, a water wholesaler for about 353 square miles of San
Bernardino County, certified the proposed Sterling Natural
Resources Center project, which would capture and treat East
Valley Water District’s wastewater and add the output to the
Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin, which is at a historic low
A 2005 spate of quakes in California’s Central Valley almost
certainly was triggered by oilfield injection underground, a
study published Thursday said in the first such link in
California between oil and gas operations and earthquakes.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials were in Carlsbad
on Wednesday to announce more than $182 million in federal
funding that will be funneled to drinking water and wastewater
infrastructure improvements throughout California.
A U.S. Interior Department investigation glossed over the
federal government’s negligence in a massive toxic wastewater
spill from an inactive gold mine that fouled rivers in three
states, Republicans in Congress said as they pushed for a more
detailed explanation of the accident.
In an attempt to prevent its oil industry from contaminating
groundwater sources that could be used for drinking water,
California regulators closed 33 wells last week that were
injecting oilfield waste into protected aquifers.
An Associated Press analysis of data from leading oil- and
gas-producing states found more than 180 million gallons of
wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving
ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and even deliberate
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board ignored
its own staff recommendation and voted to let Valley Water
Management Co. continue disposing of excess wastewater by
spraying it on hillsides for another 21/2 years.
Although treating wastewater generally ranks alongside police
and fire safety, schools, and transit as the top priorities of
any sensible city hall, new ideas about cleaning up sewage
almost never attract headlines or TV airtime. … It has taken
a four-year drought in California to change that.
In the fourth year of an unrelenting drought emergency, every
use of water in California is being put under the microscope.
Watering a lawn, filling a pool, washing a car, growing food —
all are familiar practices now viewed with a more critical eye.
The same is true of California’s oil industry, the nation’s
The farm is taking part in a research project using worms to
consume nitrogen in manure-tainted water that irrigates its
feed crops. The goal, in part, is to reduce the risk of
pollution. But the process also has a byproduct – an especially
rich fertilizer that can be sold to home gardeners and other
Seeking to accelerate San Diego’s efforts toward greater water
independence, Mayor Kevin Faulconer will lobby Gov. Jerry Brown
today for financial and regulatory help with the city’s $3.5
billion plan to recycle sewage into drinking water.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews
and other Silicon Valley leaders on Monday took big gulps of
recycled water — filtered, cleaned and disinfected sewage — to
show that it is safe and should be a growing part of Silicon
Valley’s drinking water future.
The question of how the state’s petroleum companies should
dispose of wastewater that comes from the ground mixed with
newly pumped crude oil attracted a gathering of anti-fracking
protesters in Long Beach on Tuesday.
In hearings at the Capitol last week, lawmakers excoriated
Brown’s staff for letting oil drillers inject wastewater into
wells in protected aquifers and for allowing a battery recycler
in Southern California to operate under a temporary permit for
decades while emitting hazardous waste.
The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and
protecting California’s ever-dwindling water sources from the
industry’s pollution all fell down on the job, one state
official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.
California officials, responding to concerns about groundwater
contamination, are closing 12 wells in the Central Valley used
to dispose of chemical-laden water from oil and gas production,
regulators announced Tuesday.
Water officials in Kern County discovered that oil producers
have been dumping chemical-laden wastewater into hundreds of
unlined pits that are operating without proper permits.
… The pits — long, shallow troughs gouged out of dirt —
hold water that is produced from fracking and other oil
The city of Dixon is suing a taxpayers’ group, trying to block
an electoral challenge to a sewage rate increase in a growing
rift over how to pay for $23 million or more in state-mandated
improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
Fresno is turning its sewer farm into a drought-buster. City
Hall has started building the first phase of an advanced
treatment plant that will deliver millions of gallons of water
every day for non-drinking uses, such as irrigation of green
The recent revelation that oil companies were allowed to inject
wastewater into federally protected aquifers has spurred alarm
from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and put state
regulators on the defensive.
The show floor at WWETT 2015 will be filled with the latest and
greatest products the water and wastewater industry has to
offer. But it’s also important to remember where the industry
came from. A historical display, sponsored by NASSCO, and
coming to the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment and
Transport (WWETT) Show in February, will do just that.
By next year work should be underway on National Park Service
property at Stinson Beach to gird against rising seas that are
predicted to swallow part of Marin’s coast sometime this
century. The threat of sea-level rise is the primary reason why
the park service is planning a $2.3 million revamp of a
wastewater treatment system …
DC Water dedicated its second Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) on
December 12, 2014. It has been named “Nannie”, in honor of
Nannie Helen Burroughs, a prominent 20th century
African-American educator, civil rights activist, and
Washington resident. This TBM will join another – called “Lady
Bird” – as part of Washington’s strategy to reduce combined
sewage overflows into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers when it
A broad coalition of 27 non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
including The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, and The
Conservation Fund has pledged to support the Urban Waters
Federal Partnership as it works to restore waterways and
revitalize communities across the country. … Many urban
waterways have been polluted for years by sewage, runoff from
city streets, and contamination from abandoned industrial
A proposal to deliver wastewater from a Toro-area community
services district to the regional treatment plant for recycling
could be a key part of any Monterey County Board of Supervisors
approval of the Ferrini Ranch development.
As climate change exacerbates the most severe weather and
speeds sea-level rise, deficiencies in wastewater
infrastructure will become harder to ignore—and increasingly
costly to clean up after failures.
What comes to mind when you think of purple? Likely you conjure
images of grapes, flowers, or your favorite socks. How about a
purple pipe? Most states require pipes to be colored purple if
they carry reclaimed water. … Reclaimed, or recycled, water
is highly treated wastewater that’s used again for a variety of
purposes such as irrigation, industrial processes, and cooling
In a new report, the Center for American Progress takes a look
at the danger climate change poses to wastewater systems from
stronger storms, higher seas, and heavier downpours and offers
realistic and cost-effective recommendations to shore up this
aging infrastructure before the next massive storm. Chief among
those recommendations are that all new investments in
wastewater infrastructure take into account the projected
impacts of climate change and that affordable, green
infrastructure solutions be considered.
Step by step, sewage flows through the city’s Donald C. Tillman
Water Reclamation Plant in the San Fernando Valley. Ultimately,
the cleaned effluent flows into lakes and rivers.
… Mayor Eric Garcetti, who prefers the term “showers to
flowers” instead of “toilet to tap,” also lobbied for
groundwater cleanup funds.
Because of restrictions on burning, California hospital
representatives say their only option appears to be trucking
the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another
state — a prospect that makes some environmental advocates
uneasy. … Dr. David Perrott, chief medical officer for
the California Hospital Assn., said there was also confusion
about whether infected human waste could be flushed down the
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current
state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an
overview of the geography and history of the river, historical
and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of
the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
In the West, it is not a matter of if a drought will occur, but
when. In an effort to develop a drought-proof water supply, many
communities are turning to water recycling. Water recycling is
reusing treated wastewater for irrigating golf courses, other
urban landscapes, some crops, wetlands enhancement, industrial
processes and even groundwater recharge. But many people do not
understand how water is treated, recycled and reused, causing
some to oppose new projects.
This 15-minute video explains in an easy-to-understand manner the
importance of groundwater, defines technical terms, describes
sources of groundwater contamination and outlines steps
communities can take to protect underground aquifers. Includes
extensive computer graphics that illustrate these groundwater
concepts. The short running times makes it ideal for
presentations and community group meetings. Available on VHS and
This beautifully illustrated 24×36 inch poster,
suitable for framing and display in any office or classroom,
focuses on the theme of Delta sustainability.
The text, photos and graphics explain issues related to land
subsidence, levees and flooding, urbanization and fish and
wildlife protection. An inset map illustrates the tidal action
that increases the salinity of the Delta’s waterways. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the California Bay-Delta
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to California
Wastewater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the history of wastewater
treatment and how wastewater is collected, conveyed, treated and
disposed of today. The guide also offers case studies of
different treatment plants and their treatment processes.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing
uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta,
its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues
with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural
drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.
Wastewater management in California centers on the collection,
treatment, reuse and disposal of wastewater. This process is
conducted largely by public agencies, though there are also
private systems in places where a publicly owned treatment plant
is not feasible.
In California, wastewater treatment takes place through 100,000
miles of sanitary sewer lines and at more than 900 wastewater
treatment plants that manage the roughly 4 billion gallons of
wastewater generated in the state each day.