(TNS) -- Water providers are feeling the squeeze.
The drought, rising populations, and environmental concerns are pushing agencies to move toward what, for most, was unthinkable decades before: pushing sewer water into the tap.
While health officials in California, and elsewhere, work out the details, water consortiums are moving on the process to make this new tap water source a reality.
For decades, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, thought it had a drought proof diverse portfolio of water sources, Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the nation’s largest water wholesaler, said Monday at an international water conference here.
Up until the most recent drought, “we thought we were pretty immune to drought,” Kightlinger said during the Denver-based American Water Works Association’s conference on potable reuse.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 19 million people in parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties.
Late last year MWDSC announced it was in discussions to begin planning for a giant plant that would likely be the world’s largest in a “toilet to tap,” or direct recycling water reuse project.
The Southern California area has long had smaller facilities that take recycled water and use that to recharge aquifers. Later that water, along with groundwater, is drawn for the tap, said Tama Snow, a professional engineer with the consulting firm of Hazen and Sawyer in Irvine.
A large plant in San Diego County to use recycled water either as a nearly direct feed or in very diffused form, is in the planning phase, Michael J. Adelman, an environmental engineer with MWH in Pasadena, said in an interview.
During the 1977 drought, MWD compensated for loss of northern California water by ramping up its draw of Colorado River water, Kightlinger said.
“That lulled us into a false sense of security that we could manage a drought,” Kightlinger said.
But with the growth of population in California and other states using the Colorado, and the severity of the current drought, have shown the pillars of security are not a sure bet, he said.
Although conservation efforts have produced significant gains, a new water source is needed. And one place for that extra water is from direct use of recycled water, Kightlinger said.
©2016 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.