Statement: “That water (from purified sewage) is three to four times as expensive as anything else. Desalinated water has gotten cheaper because they’ve improved the technology for taking the salt out of the water. … We can create more water through desalination and through reclamation at a far cheaper cost than the toilet-to-tap project. It’s economically unviable, in my view,” Bob Kittle, KUSI’s director of news planning and content, said Sept. 10 on Editor’s Roundtable on KPBS.
Analysis: There’s no ignoring that creating water by purifying sewage (what Kittle called toilet-to-tap) isn’t as cheap as importing water from the Colorado River or Sacramento Delta, our two main sources. But it’s not as expensive as Kittle claimed.
Kittle made his comment to argue in favor of expanding the city’s purple pipe system, which treats sewage to be clean enough for irrigation but not drinking. That’s also known as reclaimed water or reclamation. And right now, San Diego has more reclaimed water available than customers for it.
The city hasn’t built enough purple pipes to distribute the water everywhere it could be used. And the city doesn’t have a way to store the water in winter when sprinklers are turned off. That leaves a paradox: San Diego has extra water it can’t use in a dry region scrounging for every drop it can get.
Kittle — basing his comments on memory, he said in an interview — claimed expanding the purple pipes would be cheaper than purifying sewage.