California is now able to look forward to a future where highly treated wastewater will be directly plumbed into California homes as a new drinking water supply. The State Water Resources Control Board released a report on direct potable reuse in early September, 2016.

This report explained the process of recycling urban sewage flows in a process similar to that of seawater desalination, then directly plumbing it into a city’s freshwater distribution lines, without using indirect potable reuse techniques such as storing it in a reservoir.

The water board have depended on a 12 member panel of experts from across the globe which studied the challenges and science of direct potable reuse for the last two years. It was agreed that it is possible to regulate direct potable reuse in a method that produces reliable, safe drinking water from recycled sewage.

The next part of the process is to further develop these methods, which the board are aiming to start soon. However, there is no estimate as to when this will be completed. Other agencies in California are also eagerly awaiting these methods so they can start producing water in the same way.

A Major Milestone for California

A Major Milestone for CaliforniaAll other states have been unable to advance as far as California in regards to direct potable reuse and as a result California is more likely to become an arena to explore new technology for the rest of the world.

This is a major milestone for the state as, without The State Water Resources Control Board’s report, California would not have been able to start this direct potable reuse process which has the potential to be a highly significant water source for state.

The Environmental Buffer

The expert panel has determined a set of technical questions that need to be answered before the state can start to regulate direct potable reuse. One of the main questions includes the consequences of eliminating the ‘environmental buffer’ that defines indirect potable reuse, merging recycled water with other supplies in an aquifer or reservoir.

California’s Orange County Water District for example, manages one of the biggest wastewater recycling projects in America. It is classified as indirect reuse because once the wastewater is treated using ultraviolet light, microfilters and reverse osmosis, it is then pumped into settling basins where it recharges groundwater aquifers. Months later, it is pumped out to a drinking water treatment plant prior to the delivery to businesses and households.

Although the water reaches drinking water standards once it leaves Orange County, the environmental buffer produces an additional filter and ensures it is diluted and blended with other supplies.

The direct potable reuse process will include all of these same steps, and potentially more, apart from the environmental buffer which will be removed. The treated water will directly flow into a water treatment plant or even directly into a cities delivery pipes. The state will need to determine what steps will need to be added and then figure out how to place them into enforceable regulations, which produce measurable results to ensure public health is of a high standard.

Other Requirements

Wastewater Treatment PlantOther requirements involve ensuring the treatment plant operators have the appropriate training to control recycled water in a direct potable reuse setting, and defining a new water quality monitoring method to detect when there’s a problem within the recycled water.

However, the water board has already made the major decision in this regard, it will not wait for research to answer these questions, instead it will start to develop regulations concurrent with the research.

Belmar Technologies design, build, install, commission and service complete industrial wastewater treatment systems for a wide range of sectors. For more information or to discuss our services further, please feel free to get in touch either by email to or by calling +44 (0) 1327 586 008.