Is Direct Potable Reuse in California’s Future?

The State Water Resources Control Board delivered a report to the California State Legislature on Dec. 30 that concludes that it is feasible to develop and adopt regulations for using recycled water as drinking water, provided that certain research and key knowledge gaps are addressed.

The report refers to direct potable reuse (DPR) as a new source of potable water. DPR is the introduction of recycled water directly in a drinking water system or in a raw water supply upstream of a drinking water treatment plant. No state has, until now, developed regulations specifically for DPR.

The State Water Board began its investigation regarding the feasibility of creating regulations for DPR as directed by Senate Bill 918 (Pavley, 2010) and SB 322 (Hueso, 2013), which also created an Expert Panel and Advisory Group to assist the State Water Board Division of Drinking Water staff.

According to Orange County Water District Assistant General Manager Michael Wehner, who was a member of the Advisory Group, “DPR, when implemented appropriately, has the potential to provide a high-quality, reliable source of water supply that is protective of public health for communities in California.”

Following a draft report in September and 45-day public comment period, the final report is a key step toward fulfilling Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s goal of more sustainable water resources, as highlighted in the California Water Action Plan. Recycled water is part of a multi-faceted effort to diversify California’s water supplies and increase long-term resilience.

The adoption of regulations related to direct potable reuse will not take place until the knowledge gaps are addressed and additional research is conducted related to specific public health issues.

For more information about the report and its recommendations, see the Water Board’s webpage on direct potable reuse: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/certlic/drinkingwater/rw_dpr_criteria.shtml