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By Tim Hunt

Political posturing about water

Uploaded: Jul 22, 2014

Former Pleasanton City Councilmen Matt Sullivan and Tom Pico wrote an opinion piece in the Pleasanton Weekly last week that engaged in some rhetoric that I thought had passed.
Bemoaning the city's court-ordered rezoning for more apartments, they questioned whether Pleasanton had moved beyond the point of a sustainable water supply. One paragraph read, "Discussions have started again about injecting treated sewer-water into the ground water basin. Are you ready to drink treated sewage water?"
Left unsaid is that you are drinking treated sewage water daily when the Livermore Valley's water wholesale agency, Zone 7, imports water from the San Joaquin Delta. The water is pumped out of the south Delta near Tracy and flows into the valley through the South Bay Aqueduct.
What cities are upstream and dump treated effluent into the rivers that flow through the Delta? Try the city of Stockton (population 301,000), Tracy-Lathrop-Manteca-Mountain House (150,000) and the Sacramento area (1.4 million). All of these communities have treatment plants that send the treated effluent downstream where it is a portion of the water that Zone 7 imports into the valley.
Of course, the agency treats the water before distributing it to the cities that serve residents and businesses.
As Pleasanton city operations director Daniel Smith told a group of Presbyterian men Monday morning, if you have been drinking water, you have been drinking diluted treated sewage effluent.
The Pico-Sullivan ploy is simply a political cheap shot, particularly considering that the state is in a deep three-year drought that has emphasized the importance of using resources wisely. As Smith said Monday, Pleasanton is very, very late to embrace recycled water. That contrasts sharply with both Livermore and the Dublin San Ramon Services District as well as Zone 7, which built and operates a reverse osmosis treatment plant to manage salts in the ground water (treated effluent has more salts than the Delta-conveyed water).
Pico and Sullivan both served for years on the City Council, yet did not advance an aggressive recycling program, despite the Val Vista Park being next to the Dublin San Ramon Services District treatment plant. The city put a pipeline in last year and now the park is the greenest and most sustainable in the city.
Recycled water is routine in many developed areas of the world—for instance, Hong Kong—and the technology is well-proven. Orange County has operated a treatment plant to replenish groundwater for many years with no adverse effects.
Pretending that our drinking water is pure Sierra snow melt is both misleading and a political stunt. That may be true for San Francisco and the water that is damned up at Hetch Hetchy, but it is not the case for communities served by the State Water Project.