Slow progress on water recycling in California

Only two of 26 recommendations made in 2003 by a California recycled-water task force have been fully addressed to date, while another nine have been partially implemented.

These figures are reported in a new White Paper published by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) and co-sponsored by WateReuse California highlighting the need for more effort in advancing the use of recycled water in the US state.

The original task force was set up by the California Department of Water Resources, State Water Control Board and Department of Public Health to determine the regulatory, economic, and societal issues affecting the implementation of water recycling projects. Its 2003 report Water Recycling 2030: Recommendations of California’s Recycled Water Task Force identified 26 issues and recommendations were made on how to best address them.

According to the NWRI White Paper, the importance of these 26 issues has changed since 2003, with the new top five priorities being:

  • Communication with the public.
  • State leadership and advocacy.
  • Regulatory consistency.
  • Funding.
  • Public support.
  • In addition, the following five new issues were identified:

  • Constituents of emerging concern (trace levels of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in water supplies).
  • Anti-degradation (protecting water quality conditions while supporting the beneficial uses of water resources).
  • Salinity management (controlling salts and nutrients in our ground and surface water resources).
  • Indirect potable reuse (augmenting drinking water with recycled water).
  • Better information on water recycling in the State.
  • The NWRI White Paper also provides a list of recommended steps to moving forward. For example:

  • Create a “report card” to track the status of these issues.
  • Maintain the visibility of recycled water to have success with future water bonds.
  • Work together with non-governmental organizations and the Department of Public Health regarding chemicals of emerging concern and the safety of recycled water.
  • The NWRI White Paper was prepared by Margaret N Nellor, an environmental engineer with expertise in managing recycled water research studies. It can be downloaded at