For years, bottled water companies have advertised their water as being collected from springs high atop mountains or from crystal clear rivers that meander through secluded meadows. This water is often seen in the hands of movie stars and politicians. This water is socially acceptable. This water is not “disgusting.” Imagine the shock that would appear on the faces of those drinking this water, however, if they were to be told that the water they are drinking is of lower quality than purified poop water.
In the past, San Diego has relied on receiving approximately 40 percent of its water from the Colorado River and another 40 percent from the Sacramento Delta. These numbers, however, have decreased due to a federal court decision to protect the endangered Delta Smelt fish in the Sacramento Delta and a heavy influx of people fighting for the continually decreasing amount of water in the Colorado River.
Due to decreased water allocations from these vital import sources, San Diego “could need 25 percent more water in 2030.” San Diego must find an affordable, environmentally friendly and socially acceptable solution to fill this void. Failure to do so will lead to decreased water allocation rates and increased price rates on water.
A viable solution to this problem is the introduction of a toilet to top of the line purification system to tap water distribution system — otherwise known as the indirect potable reuse of water. The purification of wastewater can be a large part of the solution to the problem of supplying ample quantities of reasonably priced water to the entire San Diego population.
When San Diego residents are first informed of the indirect potable reuse of water, the common first reactions are facial cringes. They imagine human waste particulates floating in their water glasses and massive E. coli outbreaks.
What these people must first understand, however, is that the purification standards of wastewater have no fewer or less harsh restrictions than the purification of water from the Colorado River or the Sacramento Delta. The proposed indirect potable reuse treatment system “ensures that not even the tiniest bacterium, virus, chemical or hormone can survive.” The final product of purified wastewater, therefore, is no more polluted than the water that San Diego imports and purifies.