ser ,q. U.S.W6TER jS
Water reuse is a reality
By David G. Argo
Assistant Manager and Chief
Orange County Water District
State of California
Concern about intentional reuse of
wastewater may be rooted more in
the consumer's imagination than in
reality. It might well be more appro-
priate to focus such apprehension on
conventional water sources.
Most of the drinking water avail-
able in the United States contains an
increment of wastewater, yet the
myth of "protected watershed" has
impeded development of a single
quality standard for all water sup-
plies, regardless of source.
A double standard has evolved
with regard to reuse in this country.
Even though current technology can
produce reclaimed water that meets
all primary and secondary drinking
water standards, there are no regu-
lations for potable reuse. Yet the re-
gulatory agencies have established
drinking water standards for sup-
plies of surface origin.
Orange County, California, exem-
plifies the sort of incongruity that
too often results from this situation.
A major activity of the Orange
County Water District (OCWD) in
A double standard has
evolved with regard to
reuse in this country.
this semi-arid region is artificial re-
charge of the underground aquifers.
Water Factory 21, the district's
wastewater reclamation plant, in-
jects its product water into a
groundwater basin which provides
two-thirds of the area's drinking wa-
While this reclaimed water com-
prises less than 5 percent of the re-
plenishment supply, over 50 percent
is obtained through diversion of the
"natural" flow of the Santa Ana
River. And as much as 82 percent of
this river flow originates from up-
stream municipal waste treatment
plants. Yet water regulators, while
expressing grave concern over lim-
ited reuse projects, take the "ostrich
approach" toward the much larger
problem of unplanned reuse.
Water reuse is a fact of life in this
country. Direct or indirect, planned
or unplanned, it is a reality imposed
There is no longer any ex-
cuse for evading the need
to formulate criteria for
the reuse of wastewater.
by population growth and urbaniza-
tion. From the Santa Ana and Sacra-
mento rivers in California and the
Platte River in Colorado, to the Ohio
River and the Occoquan watershed
in the nation's capital, impressive
quantities of sewage and other mu-
nicipal and agricultural wastes find
their way to aqueducts, wells, and
city water systems.
Research by OCWD and Stanford
University has confirmed that re-
claimed municipal wastewater, after
being subjected to the sophisticated
technology of Water Factory 21's
treatment process, poses no signifi-
cant health risks. There is no longer
any excuse for evading the need to
formulate criteria for the reuse of
Such standards are vital to every-
one in the water industry, not just
those interested in reuse. But we
need regulations based on what we
know, not what we don't know. The
water community must be more ag-
gressive in its support of research ef-
forts. It is essential that we learn
more about the public health impli-
cations of components in our drink-
ing water, especially trace organic,
regardless of origin.
It's time to pull our heads out of
the sand (water?) and begin to insist
that a single set of standards be es-
tablished for all the water we are
refusingg in the United States. Water
does get used again, and again.
That's an inescapable fact.
So what's the big deal?
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