We've all tried to predict the weather. But the fact is, even with all our technology and weather-predicting gadgets, we don't really know whether this drought in California, now in its fourth year, is the new normal or just another dry spell.
But we do know that it continues to be a challenge, and we can face this challenge by taking local control of our own water future.
Fortunately, we do have the technology to use recycled water for irrigation and landscaping purposes; in fact, we've already been using recycled water in a limited way.
Here in Pleasanton, we tested out the use of recycled water in a few select places, including Val Vista and Stoneridge Creek community parks and for landscape irrigation at the Stoneridge Creek retirement facility.
By doing that, we've saved over 32 million gallons of drinking water. Because these water savings were so significant, coupled with the fact that we want to have more control over our own water future, we decided to expand upon our previous success.
Purple pipes and recycled water are not new. Coastal areas began using treated wastewater to replenish groundwater basins in the 1960s. In the 1970s, California used 175,000 acre-feet (AF) of recycled water annually for agricultural use. In 2009, it used 669,000AF/year. To put it in perspective, 1AF is about 326,000 gallons -- the quantity of water for two average households over the course of a year.
The story of the purple pipe goes that an engineer out of Irvine, who designed the original distribution system for recycled water, was so severely color blind and most of the other primary colors were taken for all the other pipes we use that he came up with the purple pipe, figuring that if he could see it, so could everybody else.
It took us four years of planning and preparation, but we will soon break ground on installing more than 10 miles of purple pipes to distribute recycled water that will service more than 130 irrigation meters, from Hacienda Business Park to the Ken Mercer Sports Park and the Tennis and Community Park.
Last year, the state approved $800 million in low-interest loans to spur investing in purple pipes. Pleasanton received a $17 million loan, which will be repaid over the next 30 years by businesses purchasing the recycled water. Phase 1A of the project will take roughly a year, but when complete, we'll be saving 450 million gallons of drinking water, which will give us the flexibility to better respond in the fifth year of the drought and years later.
Using recycled water for landscaping provides a reliable and sustainable water supply that is not subject to drought restrictions. By diversifying our water portfolio, we will be in a much stronger position to decide for ourselves what our future water landscape looks like.
Will there be inconvenience? Some. Expect some traffic delays while the crews are laying down the new pipes, but the short-term inconvenience will be well worth our long-term gain. Going brown in order to be green hasn't been easy, but it's what's needed. With the state mandating a 20% per capita water reduction by 2020, the time is right for us take control of our water.