Homeowners Line Up for Recycled Sewer Water

If you want to water your lawn and you live in the Tri-Valley region of California, head on down to the Dublin San Ramon Services District wastewater plant. You can get recycled sewer water for free.

It’s a new idea to offer recycled sewer water to residents, but for those who live in an area where local water suppliers have limited customers to watering their lawns twice a week and asked them to cut their water use by 25%, it’s a welcome one. In Pleasanton, for example, residents have to pay a substantial fine if they refuse to reduce their water use. James McCabe, a Pleasanton pharmacist, has no problems using recycled sewer water, telling the Contra Costa Times, "When I walk my dog by the creek, you're going to find a lot more bacteria in the creek than in this recycled water.”

Roughly 60 residents are already visiting the plant regularly.

Residents can take up to 300 gallons every time they visit the plant, and there is no limit to the amount of trips they can take.

Dan Gallagher, operations manager at the district, was surprised. He told the Times, "This just blows me away about how popular this has been. I thought maybe it would be my wife and three or four other people, and that would be it. No one is happy about the drought shortages, but people are happy to have an option for a little help."

The only minimal requirements in order to obtain the water are that residents must complete an agreement and receive brief instructions.

The idea of using recycled sewer water from water agencies is not new; San Jose has given it for purposes of industrial cooling and landscape irrigation, but not to residential customers, according to Blair Allen, an engineer with the Bay Area Water Resources Control Board. He said of the Dublin San Ramon plan, "It's very innovative, and they deserve credit for it."

The plan went into effect in mid-June; in its second week roughly 10,000 gallons of recycled water were given away. Although that is a tiny percentage of the almost 10 million gallons of drinking water pumped out daily to 77,000 people in Dublin and the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon, Gallagher was pleased. He asserted, "It's a drop in the bucket in the big picture, but I think this project will go a long way in helping change public attitudes about using recycled water."

At the end of the year, the plan will be assessed by water managers.


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