Guest Opinion: Purple pipes are coming to Pleasanton

City breaking ground on installing 10 miles of pipes to distribute service to more than 130 irrigation meters

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.

Editor's note: Jerry Thorne, now serving his second two-year term as mayor of Pleasanton, is a retired corporate executive with more than 40 years in the private sector. He also served for 10 years on the city's Parks & Recreation Commission.

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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 7, 2015 at 8:46 am

About time. Keep up the good work on getting us through the drought!

Like this comment
Posted by Ajay Dhillon
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Aug 7, 2015 at 9:14 am

An excellent idea. Hope other cities across Ca do the same

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Posted by Oliver Heaviside
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 7, 2015 at 10:17 am

Oliver Heaviside is a registered user.

Great work, Mayor Thorne! I hope eventually we can get PP water to every home. Tho I admit my daily trips to the WW facility have been a nice way to meet a wide range of different people. Open up a coffee stand there and you'd make a bundle!

Now, what can we do to get their RO equipment back online so we can also replenish aquifers?

2 people like this
Posted by Jim Van Dyke
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 7, 2015 at 11:45 am

Homeowners don't have to wait for purple pipes! It's not that hard to re-route grey water (washing water) from washing machines to plants, and a description of steps and required parts are available via a simple Google search. Any hardware store will have the parts, which won't exceed $50 (and possibly much less), and you don't have to compound the original cause of climate change--pollutants in the air-- by driving across town to pick up recycled water! Beyond rerouting washing machine gray water, gray water from bath tubs and sinks can also be re-routed, but the process starts to get a bit more involved.

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Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm

@Jim Van Dyke: "Homeowners don't have to wait for purple pipes! It's not that hard to re-route grey water (washing water) from washing machines to plants."

You mean from the 'rinse' cycle? I assume that the water from the 'wash' cycle is too loaded with detergents to use on plants. Also, we got a new high-efficiency washing machine within the last year, and these new machines really don't use much water at all. Don't know if it's even worth setting up a grey water system for a newer washing machine. Seems like simply getting a new high-efficiency washing machine would be a better option for many homeowners than setting up a grey water routing system for an older washing machine which produces a lot of grey water.

Would be great if it were easy to recapture all that water that goes down the drain from showers and baths, though. Air conditioners during the hot Pleasanton summers can also produce quite a bit of water from the air. I regularly take a bucket or two of water from our AC water collection bucket to pour onto our garden plants.

8 people like this
Posted by Jim Van Dyke
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 7, 2015 at 12:55 pm

@Damon, I have a newer high-efficiency clothes washer, and it still fills up a significant portion of the 50-gallon trash barrel I now use as the holding tank (on the way to my backyard plants). The installation really is easy, and my plants are thriving after months of use. Note that you'll need to use biodegradable soap, which is also healthier anyway. If you're handy this will be one of your easier projects, and this is just one of many online how-to sites: Web Link (this company will also do the job for you I believe, as well as convert *all* of your grey water if you wish to go that far (except your dishwasher water, which is illegal to route to plants in this state).

You'll be glad you did it!

2 people like this
Posted by RS
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Aug 7, 2015 at 9:02 pm

Yeah Jim Van Dyke! Yes, we can all use our grey water for SOMETHING! We are in the process of downsizing from 1860 sq ft to 400 sq ft (think TINY HOUSE on wheels). We'll be off grid (solar, propane, composting toilet...the works!). We plan on using our grey water for plants or crops. I know this lifestyle isn't for everyone, but we can all change our lives in little ways.

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Posted by Roger
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 9, 2015 at 12:39 am

Great job? Pleasanton doesn't care about conserving water one bit. They water the dirt at the softball fields every day. The parks and landscapes are Green Green Grean. Pleasanton concrete trucks are nice and green as well. Pleasanton is always 10 years behind Livermore and always will be.

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Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 9, 2015 at 8:44 am

mooseturd is a registered user.

Hey Roger, What part of Livermore is Del Prado in?

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Posted by Don
a resident of Ironwood
on Aug 11, 2015 at 9:17 am

Living within a senior citizen complex is a little more involved as far as the seniors living here are concerned. I fill plastic bottles with water waiting for the water to turn warm to take a shower, thus my bathtub is filled with plastic bottles and I use this water to water outside patio plants. However many are not strong enough to do this carrying from the tub to their patio. The complex has cut way back on watering and lawns are brown but perhaps a little more education from the main office at the complex would help. I also am finding that most of the seniors prefer to wash their dishes by hand instead of using their dish washers a couple of times a week, which I feel would use less water. It's difficult to teach "an old dog new tricks".!!

1 person likes this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm

I think a little common sense is needed.
We are in a drought not an emergency water rationing situation.
The baseline of 20 units per household is 245 gallons a day.
There should be no need for seniors living in a complex to save shower or bathwater in order to keep plants growing on their patios. In fact saving shower/bathwater/grey water could be detrimental to the sewer system. City sewer systems are designed with the assumption that a certain amount of water will be available to keep the system flowing. If the ratio of solids to water gets too high, the system will come to a halt. You also should keep in mind that mechanisms that use water, like dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, toilets, etc, need their seals to stay wet or else leaks will happen. Livermore and DSRSD are doing a great job in using the reclaimed water from their treatment plants for use in city and business parklands, construction projects, and residential fill stations. I would bet that in the next decade most if not all reclaimed water will be recycled back into the Tri-Valley lands instead of being pumped to the ocean. I don't think the city is worried about the 20 units of water that is used for everyday living. What the city is trying to force people to live without is the 40 or 60 units of water that is used during the summer months to keep grass alive.

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Posted by Don
a resident of Ironwood
on Aug 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Bill- The water I am referring to is clean water that people run while waiting for their bath or shower to warm. It is not dirty grey water. I use my dishwasher two times per week and have been doing that for 10 years without any problems. The point I am making about using water wisely is that many elder ladies here do not use their dishwashers at all and prefer to wash the dishes by hand and run hot water to rinse them. My opinion is, that is wasting water. Also, this complex is using energy saving appliances including the washing machines, which use very little water.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Aug 11, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Don - understand. But at some point, mathematically anyway, using two or three gallons of water for anything and throwing it down the drain is not wasting water. You see the pickup trucks and small trailers with the tanks on them. These tanks hold 275 gallons. It takes three of these tanks to make one unit of water. This is about how much it takes to water a typical 5,000 square foot residental yard one time. Do this three times a week and you have used 2,250 gallons of water...per week! So by saving 2 gallons of water from the shower, you have now saved less than one thousandth the amount that is used to water a typical lawn. At some point you have to ask yourself, is it worth the risk of fracturing or breaking a bone because you are saving a couple gallons of water. I would just let it go down the drain and chalk it up to lubricating the sewer system. The water isn't really wasted anyway. It is reclaimed to be used for other purposes.

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