Most people don’t like to think about flushing the toilet and having that same water come out of the tap. But as the California megadrought grinds on, Governor Gavin Newsom has become very enthusiastic about a new plan to render sewage water drinkable.
“There’ll have never been a project like this in US history,” Gavin said during a tour of a water plant in Carson, California earlier this week. “This is a profoundly important project for the state’s future. A lot of components of this are well established and utilized, and now we’re just bringing it all together.”
Indeed, the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant, run by the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, already treats sewage to the point where it can be safely released into the Pacific Ocean. For another $3.4 billion, a proposed wastewater recycling facility could produce up to 150 million gallons of drinking water daily.
The process is called “advanced purification” and uses microorganisms and membrane bioreactors to filter the sewage water. Then a reverse osmosis process removes 99% of the water’s impurities. A third step involves powerful ultraviolet light to zap any lingering viruses or chemicals. Note to self: Don’t try this at home.
So far, the Carson plant has a pilot version of the advanced purification process on display. The goal is to scale up the model and replicate it all over California. Proponents are excited about a drought-proof supply of drinking water. Because as long as you have humans, you’ll have—well, you know.
Folks in the construction industry have dollar signs in their eyes. A massive build out of wastewater treatment facilities would generate huge amounts of jobs, economic output, state and local taxes. What’s not to love about this plan?
Newsom said this is the most consecutive dry years California has experienced since 800 AD. Water restrictions already dictate when people can water their yards and prohibit OCD Angelenos from washing sidewalks. “We’ll get through this year,” Newsom said. “But it’s going to require us to do things a little bit differently, to be a little bit more creative.”
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