Water Recycling, Down the Drain

Carolyn Lochhead for the SF Chronicle does an admirable job of following California politics.  Here she takes a look at a crucial measure to help the drought ridden west, and why it is not coming on-line.

Water recycling may be one of the most promising sources of new water for California, but you’d never know it in Washington.

At half the cost of desalinating sea water, recycling municipal wastewater could create an estimated 1.1 million acre-feet of new water in California. That’s roughly twice as much water as $9 billion in new dam proposals would deliver to the state in a year.

The new reclaimed source would come from purifying water that currently is used once to take a shower or wash clothes or flush a toilet and then cleaned by a wastewater treatment plant and dumped in the ocean. Conservative Orange County is the technology’s poster child.

Yet amid one of the worst droughts in California’s modern history, the Obama administration this year asked Congress for $20 million for water recycling, to be spread across the entire 17-state West. That’s one-fifth the amount the administration targeted on livestock disaster assistance to California ranchers as part of its drought response, using funds under its discretion.

But tapping even that puddle of money is proving difficult because of a Republican ban on earmarks, which will allow no member of Congress to authorize spending on a new recycling project.

SF Chron Sept 7, 2015

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