President’s Message—Tasting is Believing
Advanced purified water, such as that produced by the Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District’s (OCSD) Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), is becoming a more common source for water agencies as they diversify their water portfolios. It has been scientifically proven to be clean and healthy and meets and exceeds state and federal drinking water standards.
New legislation to allow the bottling of advanced purified water is an excellent means of allowing Californians to experience how cutting-edge technology is being used to purify treated wastewater.
Even though GWRS water at the plant is superior to state and federal drinking water standards, California bottled water regulations have not caught up with recognizing reclaimed water as a source for drinking water. So, even though GWRS is pure water, we are not allowed to bottle it.
OCWD and OCSD, with WateReuse California, are supporting Assembly Bill 2022, authored by Assemblymember Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park), legislation that would authorize the bottling of potable reuse demonstration drinking water for educational purposes and to promote water reuse. The proposal will allow water agencies in California to bottle samples of advanced purified water and establishes bottling, labeling, handling, quality, and treatment requirements for bottled potable reuse water. The samples will only be able to be distributed after testing is performed to demonstrate that they meet or exceed federal and state drinking water standards.
Bottling GWRS water, for educational purposes and for emergencies (such as an earthquake,) will provide an opportunity to inform legislators, policy makers and the general public about the numerous benefits of using advanced purified water, and will result in greater public acceptance of its quality, its safety, and, ultimately, lead to the implementation of more GWRS-like projects in California and the U.S. Of course, OCWD will work diligently to make sure the containers we use are environmentally friendly.
Brought online in January 2008, the GWRS is the largest water purification project of its kind in the world. The GWRS takes highly-treated wastewater from OCSD and processes it to near-distilled quality using advanced membrane purification technologies at OCWD in Fountain Valley. Roughly one-third of the purified water from the GWRS is injected into Orange County’s expanded seawater intrusion barrier. The remaining water is piped to percolation basins in Anaheim and Orange where the water filters through sand and gravel layers into groundwater aquifers. There, the water blends with the existing groundwater before it is used as drinking water for 2.4 million north and central Orange County residents.
For those of you who are able to visit the GWRS facilities, we encourage you to book a tour to learn about the facility and water purification processes and to taste GWRS water for yourself. Water reuse has a proven track record as a viable water source. It is especially essential to supplement our needs during California’s cyclical droughts. It uses treated wastewater that would otherwise be sent, in most cases, to the ocean or rivers. It uses far less energy and costs less than imported water, is high-quality and is reliable. To learn more about water reuse projects in California and around the globe, visit the Global Water Connections Map.
Getting people past the “yuck factor,” building public awareness and trust of GWRS-like projects, and encouraging incentives for future water reuse facilities can be strongly supported by providing bottled proof. Tasting is believing.
Cathy Green, OCWD President