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Water Reuse Study E-Update - March 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.

What Is A "Part Per Trillion"?

The February 2006 E-Update contained an article about research into the presence and effect of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs in water supplies. These compounds are often referred to as "contaminants of concern" when they are found in drinking water sources, recycled water, the ocean and streams and rivers downstream of wastewater discharges. These compounds are identified and measured at a small number of laboratories in the United States with equipment sensitive enough to measure levels in "parts per trillion." Water quality laboratories routinely measure in "parts per million" and "parts per billion."

Samples of recycled water that have gone through the Advanced Water Treatment demonstration facility at North City Water Reclamation Plant were sent to a laboratory that measured in "parts per trillion" detection levels. Results from preliminary rounds of testing showed that the three-step advanced water treatment process successfully removed these contaminants.

The City's research studies analyzed for 29 pharmaceutical and personal care compounds commonly found in wastewater, including ibuprofen (an over-the-counter painkiller). Test results showed that these compounds were removed to below detectable levels (one part per trillion) by the advanced treatment recycled water process.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each person consumes about 2 liters of water per day. Based on this, during a 70-year lifetime, an individual would consume 51,100 liters of water. As an example, if ibuprofen were detected in advanced treated recycled water at the level of one part per trillion, a person would need over 3,913,894 lifetimes of drinking only advanced treated recycled water to consume the equivalent of one 200 mg ibuprofen tablet.

For relative comparisons of parts per million, billion, and trillion, see below:

One part per million is
1 inch in 16 miles
1 minute in 2 years
1 cent in $10,000
1 ounce in 31 tons
One part per billion is
1 inch in 16,000 miles
1 second in 32 years
1 cent in $10 million
1 pinch of salt in 10 tons of potato chips
One part per trillion is
1 inch in 16 million miles
A six-inch jump on the way to the Sun
1 second in 320 centuries
1 cent in $10 billion
1 pinch of salt in 10,000 tons of potato chips
1 drop of dye in 500,000 barrels of water

Orange County Sanitation District Begins Pharmaceutical Disposal Campaign

The Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD), the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, and the City of Los Angeles have begun a public education campaign to encourage consumers to properly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals. The goal is to reduce the amount of medications that are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. Traditional advice to consumers has been to throw unused medicines into the toilet or sink to prevent accidental poisoning by young children.

Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove or destroy compounds found in pharmaceuticals which may end up in the streams, lakes or ocean waters when treated wastewater is discharged to a local body of water. Pharmaceuticals remaining in wastewater are also a concern for water reclamation agencies that utilize advanced water treatment technology to produce recycled water that can be added to drinking water aquifers or reservoirs storing untreated drinking water supplies.

The OCSD campaign, called "No Drugs Down the Drain," began March 19 and is partnering with the California Pharmacists Association and the California Poison Control System. For more information on the OCSD campaign, visit http://nodrugsdownthedrain.org

Speakers Bureau Reaching Out To The Community

The Water Reuse Study's Speakers Bureau has completed 120 presentations as of the end of this February. Of this total, 56 were to groups located in the eight City Council Districts, and 35 were to San Diego groups that were not specifically identified with a City Council District. There were also 29 presentations made to non-community groups such as advisory groups, City panels and presentations at conferences.

The Speakers Bureau will tailor the presentation to meet the needs of the group and can provide programs of varying lengths to a wide variety of audiences. The Speakers Bureau announcement flyer is available on this website as well as a list of completed presentations. The Speakers Bureau coordinating staff can also be reached by phone (619) 533-6638 and by e-mail at waterspeakers@sandiego.gov

Three Papers on Water Reuse Study Activities Given At WateReuse Association California Conference

On March 13, three papers about the Water Reuse Study were presented to audiences at the March 12-14, 2006 annual conference of the California Section of the WateReuse Association. The "Evaluation of an Advanced Wastewater Treatment System for Indirect Potable Reuse" addressed the research studies at the North City Water Reclamation Plant. The second paper, "How to Create a Successful Speakers Bureau as Part of a Focused Public Outreach Effort," gave how-to's on establishing and implementing a speakers bureau that focuses on a specific topic.

The third paper, "Supporting Public Outreach with a Stakeholder Group," described the process of creating the City of San Diego Assembly on Water Reuse and holding the American Assembly style workshops. The paper also addressed some of the communication mechanisms between the Water Reuse Study team and the Assembly participants, such as the E-Update monthly newsletter. More information about the WateReuse Association is available at http://www.watereuse.org

World Water Day Promotes Awareness of Global Drinking Water Issues

The "Water for People" organization partnered with two corporate sponsors on World Water Day, March 22, for an awareness walk in eleven major U.S. cities. The "Walk for Water" is designed to call attention to the more than 1.1 billion people worldwide that have no access to safe drinking water. The event's name is inspired by the example of women in "water stressed" countries who often have to walk six miles a day to get drinking water for their families. The United Nations declared March 22 as World Water Day in 1992 to increase international attention to the critical lack of clean water.

San Diego has a steering committee for "Water for People," and several City of San Diego water department employees volunteer their time and efforts with this organization. A local walk was organized and held in Balboa Park on World Water Day. The "Water for People" organization is also included in the Water Department's Workplace Giving Campaign information. The vision of "Water for People" is a world where no one suffers or dies from a water-related disease.

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.