Welcome to a new era of recycling waterState Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson no doubt remembers stopping by the Pleasanton City Council some 10 years ago to introduce himself as a newly elected state Senator. There, just a few feet away from his front row seat in the council chamber, was a working model toilet positioned in front of the lectern, flushing away as protestors objected to a plan under consideration to pump treated wastewater into the ground instead of sending it to the Bay.
The protestors won their argument, with both the council and the Dublin San Ramon Services District backing off the plan insofar as Pleasanton was concerned. As for Torlakson, he stepped past the toilet and made his statement. He's never been back.
In those 10 years, as cities, including Livermore, turned to treated wastewater as part of a statewide water conservation effort, Pleasanton has opted out. We continue to use the precious and limited supply of regular drinking water to irrigate our parks, sports fields, even Callippe Preserve golf course. At one time, at the mayor's urging, drinking water spigots were turned on to raise the water level of the Arroyo del Valle to keep a small species of fish alive during a particularly dry summer.
Thankfully, those days may be gone. At last week's City Council meeting, Daniel Smith, director of operations services, presented a plan for working with Zone 7, the city's water supplier, to develop a recycled water system and expand the city's water conservation program. The recycled water system will reduce potable water use by converting a portion of irrigation connections serviced currently by regular drinking water. By 2020, this system is projected to service major commercial irrigation regions as well as city parks. Purple fire hydrants, like those seen in Livermore, will indicate that the water from these hydrants is no longer potable, although treated so thoroughly it's not a health hazard. As for Callippe Preserve, the city already has purple recycled water pipes underground along with potable water pipes. These purple pipes, quietly installed when the city rebuilt Alisal Street through Happy Valley to serve the golf course, have yet to be used.
Water is a precious natural resource that is in short supply in California. Population increases and efforts to protect the environment have reduced the reliability of our water supply. Without widespread development of additional water resources, the State Department of Water Resources predicts that by the year 2020, Californians will be short 7 million acre-feet of water per year during a drought and 2.9 million acre-feet in an average year. An acre-foot of water is enough to supply two families for a year. Water reuse projects are essential to the water resources management of the region.
Water recycling, practiced for decades in the arid regions of the U.S. and around the world, is becoming more and more common throughout California. The Dublin San Ramon Services District, whose plan Pleasanton rejected a decade ago, has joined hundreds of other agencies statewide in an effort to better manage our water resources through recycling. Because it began developing a recycled water system early, the DSRSD is already meeting the state mandate to reduce per capita water consumption 20% by 2020. Already, recycled water accounts for approximately 18% of the district's sales.
Smith's operations services plan is a step in the right direction to put Pleasanton in compliance with the state's goal and in sync with the efforts of both Zone 7 and the DSRSD to make better use of recycled water and preserve our potable drinking water supplies.