On Tuesday, California regulators unanimously approved rules for water agencies to recycle wastewater and repurpose it for drinking water.

“The California State Water Resources Control Board voted to approve regulations that would streamline ‘direct potable reuse’ (DPR) — a method by which purified wastewater is released right into a public water system or just upstream from a treatment plant,” The Hill reports.

DPR was dubbed “toilet-to-tap.”

“California approves treated potty water for drinking water. 21st century green hell, here we come!” Steve Milloy commented.

More from The Hill:

“We’ve been working on these regulations for over 10 years now, making sure that it’s absolutely protective of public health,” Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the board’s division of drinking water, said at the Tuesday hearing.

This will also hardly be the first instance of repurposing sewage in California.


Utilities in the Golden State and around the country have long practiced “indirect potable reuse,” the injection of treated wastewater into environmental buffers — such as groundwater aquifers or lakes — before its discharge into a public system.

Unlike indirect potable reuse, however, DPR does not use an underground aquifer or any type of environmental storage barrier.

Instead, the process involves either sending purified wastewater directly into a treatment plant or first blending it with other water sources — a milder alternative known as “raw water augmentation” — prior to doing so.

“California’s new rules would let — but not require — water agencies take wastewater, treat it, and then put it right back into the drinking water system. California would be just the second state to allow this, following Colorado,” the Associated Press noted.

AP reports:

It’s taken regulators more than 10 years to develop these rules, a process that included multiple reviews by independent panels of scientists. A state law required the California Water Resources Control Board to approve these regulations by Dec. 31 — a deadline met with just days to spare.

The vote was heralded by some of the state’s biggest water agencies, which all have plans to build huge water recycling plants in the coming years. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million people, aims to produce up to 150 million gallons (nearly 570 million liters) per day of both direct and indirect recycled water. A project in San Diego is aiming to account for nearly half of the city’s water by 2035.

Water agencies will need public support to complete these projects — which means convincing customers that not only is recycled water safe to drink, but it’s not icky.

California’s new rules require the wastewater be treated for all pathogens and viruses, even if the pathogens and viruses aren’t in the wastewater. That’s different from regular water treatment rules, which only require treatment for known pathogens, said Darrin Polhemus, deputy director of the division of drinking water for the California Water Resources Control Board.

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