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Water Reuse Study E-Update - February 2006

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The Water Reuse Study team has created this "E-Update" to keep you up-to-date on Study activities and provide news about the recycled water industry. Each issue will be posted on this website. We are sending e-mail announcements of new issues to persons who have expressed an interest in the Study. If you did not receive an e-mail announcement and would like to, please join our news group. If you did receive an announcement about this issue, you are automatically in the news group.

If you are new to the Water Reuse Study, the Study Overview will provide helpful background information. The Frequently Asked Questions section contains additional material that may also be of interest.

Letters And Resolutions Of Support For The Study

The Water Reuse Study has been receiving letters and resolutions of support from organizations, cities, community groups and other agencies. These groups are providing acknowledgement and written support of the study’s efforts to find ways to utilize more recycled water to meet the City’s water needs. The letters and resolutions are being posted on the Study’s website as they are received at the City offices.

Presentation To Mayor’s Science and Technology Commission Update

On February 8, the Water Reuse Study’s speakers bureau made a presentation to the San Diego Science and Technology Commission at their regular bi-monthly meeting. The Commission’s purpose is to advise the Mayor and City Council on policy and issues in the fields of science and technology. This was the Commission’s first meeting since Mayor Jerry Sanders took office. Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The seventeen members are selected from the academic, research, biotech, wireless, high-tech and scientific communities.

The Water Reuse Study speaker gave an overview of the Study components and included information on the Advanced Water Treatment research facility at the North City Water Reclamation Plant and its testing on the effectiveness of a three-step treatment in removing contaminants of concern in the recycled water. The group was very interested in the presentation and posed many relevant questions to the speaker.

Research Investigating Medications In Recycled Water

Water quality experts and scientists in California and around the world have been researching the presence and effect of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs in the water supplies. Researchers are looking for these “contaminants of concern” in drinking water sources, recycled water, ocean waters, streams and rivers downstream of wastewater discharges. Identifying and measuring these compounds is done at only a few laboratories in the United States, as the levels are measured in “parts per trillion.” Water quality laboratories routinely measure in “parts per million” and “parts per billion.”

Common medications, such as painkillers or antibiotics, enter the wastewater stream by traveling from sinks and toilets as discarded medicines or in human waste. Wastewater treatment removes some, but not all, of the medicines. Once this wastewater is treated, it is discharged into a body of water, lake, river, or as in San Diego, the ocean. When wastewater goes instead to a water reclamation plant, it is cleaned to a higher level and disinfected so that it can be reused for a variety of non-potable (non-drinking) purposes. However, minute quantities of some medications, measurable in the parts-per-trillion level, may still be present in the recycled water.

The Advanced Water Treatment research facility at the North City Water Reclamation Plant has been analyzing the effectiveness of a three-step process to remove unwanted contaminants, such as medications, from the recycled water produced at the plant. This additional three-step process has been approved by the State of California if recycled water is to be used to recharge underground drinking water aquifers or supplement untreated drinking water stored in reservoirs. In Orange County, California, advanced treated recycled water will be added to a drinking water aquifer in the Groundwater Replenishment System, scheduled for completion in 2007.

Results from preliminary rounds of testing at the Advanced Water Treatment research facility are matching those of other research studies which show that the process is very successful in removing contaminants of concern in recycled water. Please see related articles in the June 2005 and November 2005 E-Updates.

Two members of the Water Reuse Study team were interviewed about this subject for a news story on San Diego’s NBC 7/39 which aired on February 9 during the 5 PM news broadcast. The topic was also covered in an article in the Los Angeles Times on January 30 (PDF).

In order to prevent unwanted or unused medications from entering into the wastewater stream through deliberate disposal, cities and communities are looking for safe disposal methods. In January 2005, Palo Alto, California, held an “Unwanted Medicine Cleanout Week” where citizens could bring unwanted medicines to various senior centers in the community. Over 72 pounds were collected during the event.

In San Diego, residents can contact the City’s Miramar Landfill (858) 573-1418 for disposal instructions or ask a local pharmacist for possible options.

Low Rainfall Emphasizes Need For More Local Water Supplies

It’s been a very dry “rainy season” for the City of San Diego. According to statistics from Lindbergh Field (as of January 30), the City has received only 24% of its normal rainfall amount for this time of year, 1.3 inches instead of 5.43 inches. The City of San Diego receives an annual average of 15% of its water from local sources: precipitation captured in City reservoirs and recycled water produced at the City’s water reclamation plants. The low rainfall totals this year emphasize a need to develop more opportunities for recycled water, a locally produced water supply. The Water Reuse Study’s research has developed six possible strategies to increase recycled water usage from the City’s two reclamation facilities. These are outlined in the Study’s June 2005 Interim Report.

WateReuse Association California Conference Will Hear Study Presentations

On March 12, 2006, three papers about the Water Reuse Study will be presented at the annual conference of the California Section of the WateReuse Association. The “Evaluation of an advanced wastewater treatment system for indirect potable reuse” will address the research studies at the North City Water Reclamation Plant (See article in this E-Update). Two papers will be presented in the Public Outreach section of the conference, one on the City of San Diego Assembly on Water Reuse and another on the Study’s Speakers Bureau.

In the News

News Articles of Interest - a chronological compilation with links to articles, materials and information about recycled water and related topics. Recent additions include:

Be sure to visit these and other areas of our website

  • Speakers Bureau information - how to contact the Study team for a presentation, a list of completed presentations, and a downloadable flyer on the Speakers Bureau.