Facing the worst Western drought in 1,200 years, San Francisco
is the first city in the nation to mandate onsite water reuse
for new buildings above 100,000 gross square feet.
The crucial word here is “onsite.” In contrast to a typical
building, where wastewater flows from the building into a
network of underground pipes to the city’s centralized
treatment plant, each building with onsite water reuse contains
a small wastewater treatment system. This system purifies
wastewater and directs it toward non-potable applications
including toilet flushing, irrigation, laundry, and cooling
towers. By using recycled water for non-potable purposes,
buildings with onsite water reuse reduce their potable water
use by up to 95% In residential high-rises, this can translate
to millions of gallons of water — and hundreds of thousands of
dollars – saved per year.
If conservation alone can’t help us, there is another solution
that, in combination with conservation, can make a difference:
The construction of large-scale desalination plants along the
Pacific coast are inevitable if we are to avert disaster. There
are already 14 small-scale desalination plants on the west
coast, but their production is far too little to make a
meaningful contribution to potable water supply. The largest
one is Poseidon’s Carlsbad plant, which produces 56,000
acre-feet of potable water per year, enough to supply about 10
percent of San Diego’s needs. Many countries get drinking water
from seawater this way. The Israelis get 80 percent of their
potable water needs from desalination plants, and Saudi Arabia
has desalinated seawater for many years. U.S. Navy ships and
submarines supply sailors with water for drinking and bathing
from “stills” installed on-board. -Written by Ron Aryel, a pediatrician and property owner in
The [Oxnard] Public Works and Transportation Committee reviewed
its water policy on Tuesday, January 24, and received a related
litigation update. Deputy City Manager Shiri Klima said the
committee requested reports about water, recycled water, and
wastewater. Committee members wanted a Water Division tour as
well as an update about the City water resources and a drought
update. … She said the City serves potable water to more
than 43,000 service connections, and approximately 85 percent
are single and multi-family residential connections.
… The City’s groundwater wells produce another third of
the City’s water supply, and the final third is groundwater
pumped by the United Water Conservation District for the City.
Water is already a scarce commodity in the West, but if
Colorado keeps growing we are going to need even more. One
source could be treating reused drinking water. It’s a scenario
water providers and the state are already planning for.
… It’s not something that will likely happen soon.
Direct potable reuse water will need to be treated with
state-of-the-art technologies to make it safe to drink and that
process is expensive, but providers and the state want to be
prepared. That’s why just this month [Colorado Department
of Public Health and Environment] implemented new rules to
regulate direct potable reuse water. So that way if water
providers are going to practice direct potable reuse, they are
doing it safely.
We’re getting a peek at the future of our economy. The Las
Vegas Chamber hosted Preview Las Vegas Monday. Key Colorado
River state leaders address Southern Nevada’s water issues. One
of the main focuses of Preview Las Vegas this year was the
water supply for Southern Nevada. The biggest take away?
Colorado river states are working together as one to combat the
water crisis. … At Monday’s panel discussion, talk
turned to the importance of a partnership with California’s
regional recycling system. The agency is evaluating a
restoration process that one day could send water back to
Colorado River using states. But for now, the project’s
targeted start date isn’t until 2030.
Standing under a shady tree drooping with pomegranates late
last year, Brad Simmons, a retired metal fabricator who has
lived in Healdsburg, California, for 57 years, showed off his
backyard orchard. … Of course, the small grove requires
plenty of water — an increasingly scarce resource in a state
that continues grappling with a historic drought despite recent
torrential rains. Yet Simmons, like many of his fellow 12,000
residents, has managed to keep much of this wine country
community north of San Francisco looking verdant while slashing
the city’s water use in half since 2020. Healdsburg benefits
from an invaluable resource that keeps gardens, trees, and
vineyards irrigated: free, non-potable water produced by its
In October 2022, water agencies in Southern California with
Colorado River water rights announced plans to reduce water
diversions. The agencies offered voluntary conservation of
400,000 acre-feet per year through 2026. This annual total is
nearly 10% of the state’s total annual usage rights for the
Colorado River. The cutbacks help prepare for long-term
implications of climate change for the river’s management,
which are starting to be acknowledged. In urban Southern
California, an important aspect of this need is reducing
imported water reliance through investments in local water
resources. … What would happen if Southern California
lost access to Colorado River water for an extended period?
After two years of construction, Morro Bay’s Water Reclamation
Facility is ahead of schedule. According to Greg Kwolek,
director of Public Works, the expected completion date for the
facility was March 23, 2023, but the city already hit that
deadline set by the Regional Water Quality Control
Board…. The new facility … includes two new lift
stations as well as 3.5 miles of pipelines and wells that
inject purified water into the groundwater aquifer, which can
be reused through the city’s existing infrastructure.
Not building the controversial Delta tunnel means Southern
California and Bay Area cities would need to invest in
desalination plants and groundwater recharge of brackish water
that could impact the visual pleasantries of coastal scenery.
That is the bottom line buried in the no-project alternative of
the Army Corps of Engineers’ latest 691-page Environmental
Impact Study on the proposed Delta tunnel study released in
late December. The report determined building the tunnel will
have major impacts on San Joaquín County as well as the
Northern San Joaquin Valley including agricultural, local water
supply, air quality, endangered species, and essential fish
habitat…. The Army Corps of Engineers has declined to
hold any in-person hearings for feedback on the study whose
comment period ends Feb. 14, 2002. That fact has drawn a sharp
rebuke from Congressman Josh Harder.
Water supplies are shrinking throughout the Southwest, from the
Rocky Mountains to California, with the flow of the Colorado
River declining and groundwater levels dropping in many areas.
The mounting strains on the region’s water supplies are
bringing new questions about the unrestrained growth of
sprawling suburbs.[Kathleen] Ferris, a researcher at Arizona
State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, is convinced
that growth is surpassing the water limits in parts of Arizona,
and she worries that the development boom is on a collision
course with the aridification of the Southwest and the finite
supply of groundwater that can be pumped from desert aquifers.
The city of San Diego and East County leaders have resolved a
months-long dispute over a planned water recycling project,
heading off a potentially expensive court fight over what to do
with the plant’s waste. The two sides are set to sign a series
of agreements early next year concerning the Advanced Water
Purification Project, which is projected to help make the
region less dependent on outside water sources. … The
agreements were approved by the Joint Powers
Authority, the water project’s governing body, on Nov. 17 and
by the San Diego City Council on Dec. 6. … Leaders
of the $950 million water project said the dispute threatened
to delay construction and drive up costs, and they filed a
motion in California Superior Court to seize the
station from San Diego.
Momentum is building for a unique
interstate deal that aims to transform wastewater from Southern
California homes and business into relief for the stressed
Colorado River. The collaborative effort to add resiliency to a
river suffering from overuse, drought and climate change is being
shaped across state lines by some of the West’s largest water
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
Californians have been doing an
reducing their indoor water use, helping the state survive
the most recent drought when water districts were required to
meet conservation targets. With more droughts inevitable,
Californians are likely to face even greater calls to save water
in the future.
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that
have potential applications statewide.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
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.
20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater,
and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and
turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource
through various activities.
This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12
about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to
clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and
prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The
video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference
between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is
not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The
teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that
homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.
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 Nevada Water provides an
overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada.
It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history
of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las
Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and
today’s water supply challenges.
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.
In California, home to nearly 40 million people and a desert
climate in large parts of the state, efficient water use is
critical. In the face of such demand and a limited supply, water
recycling is increasingly common throughout the state. Major
water recycling plants are already operating or in development in
places like San Diego and Orange counties while a
multi-billion-dollar plant has been proposed in nearby Los
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.
Grey water, also spelled as gray water, is water that already has
been used domestically, commercially and industrially. This
includes the leftover, untreated water generated from washing
machines, bathtubs and bathroom sinks.
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy
requirements associated with water use and the means by which
state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge
and improve the management of both resources.
When a drought occurs as it has this year, the response is
couched in the three Rs of the waste hierarchy: reduce, reuse and
The reduction part is well-known. State and local officials are
urging people to use less water in everything they do, from
landscape irrigation to shorter showers. Spurred by California’s
difficulties, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on June 4 declared a
statewide drought. On July 10, the governor and Sen. Dianne
Feinstein announced their support of the Safe, Clean, Reliable
Drinking Water Supply Act of 2008 – a $9.3 billion bond proposal
that would allocate $250 million for water recycling projects.
This issue of Western Water examines the continuing practice of
smart water use in the urban sector and its many facets, from
improved consumer appliances to improved agency planning to the
improvements in water recycling and desalination. Many in the
water community say conserving water is not merely a response to
drought conditions, but a permanent ethic in an era in which
every drop of water is a valuable commodity not to be wasted.
Water is the true wealth in a dry land – Wallace Stegner
One hundred years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt signed
legislation that changed the course of American history and
permanently altered the landscape of the western United States.
The West of today retains some of the vestiges of the land that
brought the explorers, entrepreneurs and dreamers hundreds of
years ago. Despite the surge in population, vast tracts of
wilderness remain – forests thick with evergreen trees and
seemingly unending open spaces where human inhabitants are few
and far between.
Drawn from a special stakeholder symposium held in September 1999
in Keystone, Colorado, this issue explores how we got to where we
are today on the Colorado River; an era in which the traditional
water development of the past has given way to a more
collaborative approach that tries to protect the environment
while stretching available water supplies.