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Another Step Closer to Direct Potable Reuse: California Releases Draft Report on the Feasibility of Developing Regulations for Direct Potable Reuse

Former Counsel
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by Karlene E. Martorana

The California State Water Board released its Draft Report on the Feasibility of Developing Regulations for Direct Potable Reuse (the “Draft Report”).  California Water Code Section 13561 defines “direct potable reuse” as “the planned introduction of recycled water either directly into a public water system, as defined in Health and Safety Code Section 116275, or into a raw water supply immediately upstream of a water treatment plant.”

In compliance with California Water Code Section 13563, an expert panel was convened to evaluate:

  1. The availability and reliability of recycled water treatment technologies necessary to ensure the protection of public health.
  2. Multiple barriers and sequential treatment processes that may be appropriate at wastewater and water treatment facilities.
  3. Available information on health effects.
  4. Mechanisms that should be employed to protect public health if problems are found in recycled water that is being served to the public as a potable water supply, including, but not limited to, the failure of treatment systems at the recycled water treatment facility.
  5. Monitoring needed to ensure protection of public health, including, but not limited to, the identification of appropriate indicator and surrogate constituents.
  6. Any other scientific or technical issues that may be necessary, including, but not limited to, the need for additional research.

According to the Draft Report, “[t]he Expert Panel found that it is technically feasible to develop uniform recycling criteria for DPR in California, and that those criteria could incorporate a level of public health protection as good as or better than what is currently provided by conventional drinking water supplies and IPR [indirect potable reuse].”

The Draft Report is available here.  Public comments on the report will be accepted until noon on October 25, 2016.  California Water Code Section 13563 requires a final report be submitted to the legislature by December of 2016.

The final report will be instrumental for other states that are also considering the promulgation of regulations on direct potable reuse, including Arizona. Arizona recently began a stakeholder process to revise its reclaimed water regulations. Included among the possible revisions to the regulations is the removal of the prohibition against using reclaimed water for drinking water.  Arizona Administrative Code R18-9-704.   Additionally, the Steering Committee on Arizona Potable Reuse (SCAPR) was established in 2012 to further advance potable reuse in Arizona.

The initiatives undertaken by Arizona and California demonstrate positive momentum for increasing potable water supplies through the use of reclaimed water.