Valley Water and community partners develop a water reuse master plan for water supply sustainability

Every drop of water on our planet is recycled. Water continually flows through the natural water cycle – evaporating from Earth’s surface to the atmosphere and coming back down to the surface again as precipitation. The water that comes into our homes, businesses, and schools is the same water used thousands of years ago by our ancestors.

In Santa Clara County, Valley Water found a way to speed up the natural water cycle that uses innovative technologies to create millions of gallons of advanced purified and recycled water every day. This locally controlled, drought and climate-resilient water supply is suitable for a wide array of uses.

Demands for water continue to increase due to population growth and climate change. California’s severe droughts and the deterioration of the Delta ecosystem, which accounts for 40 percent of imported water supplies to our county, require locally controlled solutions.

To ensure we meet our mission of providing safe, reliable, and clean water, Valley Water is developing the first comprehensive Countywide Water Reuse Master Plan. The water reuse master plan is Valley Water’s response to the water supply challenges caused by worsening drought conditions, environmental issues, climate change, and population growth. Support for water reuse is growing across California and around the world as communities urgently work to address similar impacts to their water supplies. Los Angeles announced plans to reuse 100% of their wastewater by 2035. Water reuse takes many forms and is often labeled as the right water for the right use.

Water reuse, also known as water recycling, includes non-potable and potable reuse. Non-potable reuse is recycled water used for irrigation, agriculture, industrial cooling systems, toilets, and firefighting, and is not for drinking. Potable reuse is recycled water that is treated to drinking water standards using advanced purification technology.

Advanced purification is a state-of-the-art, three-step process that purifies treated wastewater using microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection. There are two types of potable reuse, indirect and direct. With indirect potable reuse, the groundwater aquifer, a source of drinking water, is recharged with advanced purified water.

Direct potable reuse blends advanced purified water with raw water supplies at a drinking water treatment plant prior to treatment and distribution. The International Space Station uses similar advanced purification technology to make drinking water in space, and Orange County makes over 100 million gallons per day of advanced purified water that is indirectly used in their water supply through groundwater recharge.

The Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, Valley Water’s first advanced treatment facility, makes up to 8 million gallons per day of advanced purified water. Rigorous testing continues to highlight the safety and reliability of advanced purified water as a new, safe, clean, and reliable drinking water supply that meets California’s stringent drinking water standards. Valley Water is studying ways to integrate water reuse into our diverse water supply through our first-ever comprehensive water reuse master plan.

The water reuse master plan is a joint effort between Valley Water, local municipalities, recycled water producers, and water retailers to develop a comprehensive framework for the expansion and integration of advanced purified and recycled water into our county’s water supply over the coming decades. Key objectives of the plan include determining how much treated wastewater will be turned into advanced purified versus recycled water, defining the program’s partners and roles, determining infrastructure development needs, the program’s timeline, and laying out benefits of water reuse for the community.

Infrastructure development is a crucial component of the water reuse master plan. New advanced purification facilities will need to be built near wastewater treatment facilities in the county – potential locations include Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Gilroy – to accompany the Silicon Valley Advanced Purification Center which is located next to San Jose and Santa Clara’s regional wastewater facility.

Infrastructure needs also include laying pipes to transport advanced purified water to either percolation ponds or a drinking water treatment plant. The development of a comprehensive water reuse system in Santa Clara County will allow Valley Water and our community partners to meet the challenges that impact current and future water supplies.

The water reuse master plan is expected to be completed and presented to Valley Water’s board of directors and the public in the fall of 2020. Once adopted by the board, the plan will guide the development and coordination of advanced purification and recycled water within the county for decades to come.

Advanced Purified Water: Tap into the Future
Experience advanced water purification technology up-close; join us for a free tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center! Sign up at: www.purewater4u.org.

For more information on Valley Water’s general planning efforts, click on our Water Supply Master Plan page and/or click on our countywide recycled and purified water page.

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