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Management Experiences and Trends for Water Reuse Implementation in Northern California

Bischel, Heather N., Simon, Gregory L., Frisby, Tammy M., Luthy, Richard G.
Environmental Science & Technology 2012 v.46 no.1 pp. 180-188
economic incentives, managers, municipal wastewater, pipelines, surveys, water reuse, water supply, wildlife habitats, California
In 2010, California fell nearly 300,000 acre-ft per year (AFY) short of its goal to recycle 1,000,000 AFY of municipal wastewater. Growth of recycled water in the 48 Northern California counties represented only 20% of the statewide increase in reuse between 2001 and 2009. To evaluate these trends and experiences, major drivers and challenges that influenced the implementation of recycled water programs in Northern California are presented based on a survey of 71 program managers conducted in 2010. Regulatory requirements limiting discharge, cited by 65% of respondents as a driver for program implementation, historically played an important role in motivating many water reuse programs in the region. More recently, pressures from limited water supplies and needs for system reliability are prevalent drivers. Almost half of respondents (49%) cited ecological protection or enhancement goals as drivers for implementation. However, water reuse for direct benefit of natural systems and wildlife habitat represents just 6–7% of total recycling in Northern California and few financial incentives exist for such projects. Economic challenges are the greatest barrier to successful project implementation. In particular, high costs of distribution systems (pipelines) are especially challenging, with $1 to 3 million/mile costs experienced. Negative perceptions of water reuse were cited by only 26% of respondents as major hindrances to implementation of surveyed programs.