Converting sewage to drinking water

March 2009 Vol. 64 No. 3

As California’s drought worsens, Escondido city officials are considering exploring a new technology that transforms sewer water into clean drinking water.

According to an article in the North County Times, it would take several years to plan and build a facility that could purify sewer water but city officials believe such a facility might save city residents money by lowering local water and sewer rates.

There is considerable public opposition to purifying sewer water, but supporters say an aggressive public education campaign can persuade people to drink the water.

The article recounts the experience that Orange County officials had when they opened their sewer water purification facility more than a year ago, citing that it was a tremendous success. Of course, criticism was quelled only after a 10-year public information campaign was launched shortly after their facility was in the planning stages in the late 1990s.

Members of the Escondido City Council said they were open-minded about anything that might increase the city’s water supply and lower expenses. But they also said it would take strong evidence to persuade them to drink a glass of water they knew had once been sewer water.

The process involves reverse osmosis to remove virtually every pharmaceutical and hormone found in water, and ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide is used to kill any remaining bacteria or substances.

The city will spend $50,000 this summer to have a consultant study the feasibility of purifying the 13 million gallons of wastewater Escondido processes each day at its sewage treatment plant.