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Toilet to tap, the answer to SoCal’s water woes?


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A new report from the National Research Council has found that reclaimed wastewater could be treated to the same safety standard as drinking water, a finding that could help the Southern California’s strained water resources.

Though California sends most of its runoff and treated water into the Pacific Ocean, it has been replenishing local aquifers with treated water. The study’s scientific panel contends that this water could be made safe enough to drink, contrary to previous findings in 1998 that recommended its use for drinking only as a last resort.

Treated waste water from Las Vegas already flows into Lake Mead, a water resource for Southern California. Reclaimed water supplies are looking more attractive to water officials in the arid Southwest who are facing challenges from population growth and climate change. And, according to Jorg Dawes, a water expert on the NRC panel, treated wastewater is just as safe as the rest of the drinking supply, and, it’s drought proof.

There will always be a ready supply of wastewater. But the question still remains, can we get over the “toilet to tap” ick factor? What exactly does the wastewater treatment process entail? And, what choice do we have?


Mr. R. Rhodes Trussell, Chair, National Research Council's Committee to Assess Water Reuse; President, Trussell Technologies Inc., an environmental engineering firm based in Pasadena

James McDaniel, Assistant General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) Water System