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Palo Alto looks to sell, treat — and possibly ask people to drink — wastewater

Original post made on Sep 19, 2019

In an effort that could loosen the spigot on recycling water in the region, Palo Alto and Santa Clara Valley Water are exploring a deal that would transfer the city's wastewater south for treatment and, ultimately, consumption.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 19, 2019, 9:32 AM

Comments (36)

13 people like this
Posted by CCW
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:09 am

There is definitely an “ick” factor here. Using treated wastewater for plants is one thing, having us drink it a whole other. Not looking forward to that.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:16 am

I would love to see desalination plants along the coast, something similar to what they do in Israel.


9 people like this
Posted by Old Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:21 am

Too many people using too much water made this inevitable.
More housing, more people, more jobs,...... it will only get worse.
Trash and sewage management will become unmanageable within the next decade (ref. State decaf also report on infrastructure, - findings and conclusions)


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:23 am

SB:
(ref. State Decadal report on infrastructure, - findings and conclusions


11 people like this
Posted by Idea Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:31 am

How about all new construction have one water line for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation and one for everything else (drinking, bathing, clothes & dish washing)? Bring both lines out to meter area. For the moment, connect the two together. In the future, as recycled water service is available, connect the lines as appropriate. This would especially make sense in new housing developments. The state has limited water resources. Toilet flushing and landscaping irrigation are the big users, so with only a little cost impact, get ready to use recycled water the right way.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:48 am

No need to use for potable water for a while. The need is to support irrigation for lawns-- at some point, regulations should require all lawn watering to be recycled water. (Getting the salt content down is critical.) . For the time being, let's irrigate the low-hanging fruit-- all the lawns in industrial parks, parks, golf courses, etc. Also, start using the water for the street cleaners, which now use tiny amounts of water.


2 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

I'm not sure why anyone would have an issue with this, although I agree there is a minor "Ick factor".

Properly treated water from nearly any source can be potable and safe for whatever use might be decided (including consumption from the tap).

Remember, the International Space Station has been using & reusing the same water for years!


3 people like this
Posted by Excessive H2O Use Can Be Reduced Somewhat
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 1:02 pm

> Toilet flushing and landscaping irrigation are the big users, so with only a little cost impact, get ready to use recycled water the right way.

Toilet flushing cannot be helped...on the other hand, eliminating golf courses & cemeteries would go a long way towards reducing irrigation water needs as would excessive outdoor landscaping.

Reduce the number of athletic fields as well by consolidating the sports usage applications.




3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Posted by Excessive H2O Use Can Be Reduced Somewhat

>> on the other hand, eliminating golf courses & cemeteries would go a long way towards reducing irrigation water needs as would excessive outdoor landscaping.

>> Reduce the number of athletic fields as well by consolidating the sports usage applications.

Alternatively, perhaps we could -increase- utilization of outdoor sports fields by properly irrigating them with reclaimed water.


5 people like this
Posted by Ron
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2019 at 3:05 pm

Last week, I saw a fireman washing what look like his personal car in the back area of the fire station. To me, that’s wasteful water use.


4 people like this
Posted by chavey
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

Recycling water is the way to go. Treated water may have a higher salinity (see Web Link).

If the state of california was actually doing its job and reducing the amount of water waste in agricultural use.

agriculture gets 62 percent, urban water users 16 percent, and environmental purposes 22 percent.
see Web Link

What would make more sense is for cities to get water sent to farms and then treat it and send it back to agriculture. Cities may even be able to make a buck or two from that.



11 people like this
Posted by Resident Recycler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2019 at 4:30 pm

I think recycled water is a great idea.
How much is the new Stanford Hospital and University expansion currently using?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident Recycler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm

@ Cheny - wouldn't it make more sense to simply limit population growth?

Ideally, there should be a way to enforce all new developments (commercial and residential) to only be piped with only recycled water, and install an RO system.
This includes all the new construction homes which are replacing our neighborhood homes.
And (for the last time since I raised awareness of this issue back in 2008) - please stop pumping out our existing groundwater for residents to have luxuries like lap pools and wine cellars.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Posted by Resident Recycler, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> wouldn't it make more sense to simply limit population growth?

Certainly a factor, but, there will have to be reductions in water use anyway as a result of climate change, so, we need to get smarter about water use and look at the whole system.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident Recycler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:32 pm

Hetch-Hetchy was never built to service this many people in the first place.
We were on groundwater when my family moved here.

It is really a shame that that the groundwater intensive "server farms" of high tech businesses can't use a system like this for their evaporative cooling systems.
They are pumping the earth dry to store our meaningless photos, videos, and online games into their freshwater cooled "cloud" servers.

Wasn't this recycled water program originally termed "Toilet to the Tap"?

I wish they could pipe it all the way to data centers and make them use it.


Like this comment
Posted by Steven A.
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Sure, I can't imagine people have a problem with drinking their own waste water.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 20, 2019 at 3:16 am

I'll have a spare set of pipes when Palo Alto cuts off my methane.


10 people like this
Posted by A Moral Compass
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2019 at 7:20 am

A Moral Compass is a registered user.

> Hetch-Hetchy was never built to service this many people in the first place.
We were on groundwater when my family moved here.

^^^Correct. We actually have access to groundwater via an old sump pump BUT a water sample was tested several years back & it is not suitable for drinking due to certain contaminants that have accrued over the past six decades.

As a result, the water is only suitable for basic landscape irrigation (i.e. lawn, shrubs, groundcover etc.).

We do not use it for our seasonal vegetable garden or fruits


2 people like this
Posted by Cathy
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:38 am

San Diego's Pure Water program is considered to be indirect potable reuse, not direct potable reuse. The purified water will have a period of detention in a surface water reservoir which is an environmental barrier. Please update the article accordingly. For more information, see www.purewatersd.org. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by London
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:56 am

London is a registered user.

I have been told that water in London is recycled and has been for years. It gets used about three times . Tastes fine to me.


2 people like this
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:56 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Cathy,

Thank you for the correction and sorry for the error. I updated the story accordingly.


6 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Sep 20, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Toilet to tap is disgusting. No thanks, Palo Alto!


2 people like this
Posted by Sophie
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:47 pm

Wastewater has been and is treated to be drinkable water in Singapore, because it has very limited groundwater. Some Coca Cola plants in Asia treat wastewater to be qualified to produce their products since 2000. This type of water conservation is considered environmental best practice.


Like this comment
Posted by friend from Singapore
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2019 at 9:52 pm

@Sophie, funny you should mention Singapore. I was just with a friend from Singapore. He asked me whether he should pour the tea kettle water through the Britta filter first or pour the filtered water into the tea kettle and boil it so he could have a glass of water. He said "At home we boil it then put it through the Britta filter." Ick


3 people like this
Posted by Native Californian
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

This while people in charge, our state legislators, allow millions of gallons of fresh precious water to flow into the ocean every year. It used to be fresh water was used for the people and wastewater pumped out. Now the reverse is true. Ask them why.


2 people like this
Posted by Becca
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Have you been to Orange County? If your answer is yes, then you have drank recycled water. They have been doing it there since 1964!! What do you think mother nature days with our water. There is no new water. This planet's water is finite and just keeps getting recycled over and over. Purified recycled water just speeds up the process!


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2019 at 3:15 pm

@Native Californian: Water flowing into the ocean isn't wasted, despite comments supporting that belief by our ignorant President. A whole host of organisms in San Francisco Bay, and the Delta, for example, depend on that influx of fresh water for their survival. You wouldn't want to live next to the Bay with that flow of water cut off.


3 people like this
Posted by Hetch hetchy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2019 at 8:17 pm

When we moved here years ago, a selling point of Palo Alto, and SF, for that matter, was the high quality Hetch hetchy water. I’d like to keep that, not mix with bad tasting groundwater or change to recycled water. San Jose water is not particularly nice.


7 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 24, 2019 at 8:57 am

California is just becoming a 3rd world country. Look around, and wake up. We simply cannot maintain the exploding population in this state. Drinking PooPoo water is just the next step.

Sure we could build Desalination plants, But where is the money gonna come from, more taxes? We already know where the money is being squandered but those who run the state are more interested in absolute power than it own citizens.

Until Californians wake up and get involved, these sort of shenanigans will continue.


1 person likes this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 24, 2019 at 9:20 am

@Native Californian: Water flowing into the ocean isn't wasted, despite comments supporting that belief by our ignorant President. A whole host of organisms in San Francisco Bay, and the Delta, for example, depend on that influx of fresh water for their survival. You wouldn't want to live next to the Bay with that flow of water cut off.

So what happened 125 years ago when the rivers and creeks went dry every summer, historically California has always been semi arid. Tell me? and don’t ignore history.


5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2019 at 9:34 am

Annette is a registered user.

The "ick factor" on this is significant and should this idea become a reality it will, I suspect, result in higher sales of bottled water which is sold in plastic bottles. So much for reducing landfill, Palo Alto. . .


7 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2019 at 10:12 am

Gee, who could have guessed that the relentless push for growth would come to this. Remember, ABAG's pushing to add another 3,000,000 MORE people to the Bay Area in the next few years. And Palo Alto continues to add more ridiculous and costly road furniture and bulb-outs to make gridlock even worse.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident Recycler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Many people who are new to the US use bottled water like Crystal Geyser.
They claim it makes their rice taste better.
They either don't care about the massive amount of waste they are making, or just haven't been educated in conservation.
Recycling and conservation were taught at PAUSD in the mid 70's.
I was so proud that my city was one of the first to have a recycling center and push this concept.
Decades ago we had had to show patience and teach people (visiting grad students and a small number of newcomers) from "Out-of-state" about this concept, but now we are dealing with world.
Our tap water surpasses many other communities - both in the US, India, and Asia.


2 people like this
Posted by Kenny
a resident of University South
on Sep 24, 2019 at 6:34 pm

"Many people who are new to the US use bottled water like Crystal Geyser.
They claim it makes their rice taste better.
They either don't care about the massive amount of waste they are making, or just haven't been educated in conservation."

Perhaps they simply want their rice to taste good?

"Our tap water surpasses many other communities - both in the US, India, and Asia."

That's not saying much.

Maybe it is just me, but I would rather drink water that people haven't peed or pooped in.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 24, 2019 at 8:52 pm

The Tap water is not the same as it was 30 ago....We won't drink it. Why take a chance.


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Palo Alto's managed to do Marie Antoinette one better than her "Let them eat cake."


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