GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

California potable reuse study gets a boost with SB 322

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 10, 2013

Many people will remember that in September 2010 Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 918 which required the State Department of Public Health to investigate the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse, and to provide a final report on that investigation to the Legislature.

Locals may now be experiencing a feeling of déjà vu after reading U-T San Diego’s report about SB 322 signed by Governor Brown (Brown signs bill to boost SD ‘toilet-to-tap’ plans).

The U-T writes that SB 322 : “…gives the Department of Public Health, working with the State Water Resources Control, until Sept. 1, 2016 to issue a draft feasibility report” on potable reuse and “calls for an expert panel and advisory groups to study the best course for regulating wastewater-to-drinking-water and then submit those recommendations to the two state agencies for review.

Sound like the same thing? It is, mostly, with a few differences:

  • The old bill (SB 918) directed the Department of Public Health to perform the investigation and prepare a report for the legislature by December 31, 2016. The new bill (SB 322) directs that the Department of Public Health perform the investigation in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • The old bill required a public review draft to be completed by June 30, 2016. The new bill gives more time for the public review draft to be completed, shifting it to September 1, 2016.
  • The old bill required an expert panel to be convened for purposes of the investigation, but didn’t say when. The new bill says the expert panel must be convened and administered on or before February 15, 2014.
  • The old bill said the department may appoint an advisory group. The new bill says the department must convene an advisory group on or before January 15, 2014.

Other changes include new details covering the scope of the investigation, the composition of the expert panel, and composition of the advisory group. Curiously, while the old bill authorized the department to accept funds “from any source” for the investigation, the new bill authorizes the department to accept funds “from nonstate sources.”

In sum, the new bill adds some urgency to the effort with a deadline for convening the expert panel, changes the advisory group from optional to mandatory, and adds more specifics about the study itself.

San Diego County Water Authority’s news release characterizes the bill well, saying it “…is expected to expedite a transparent and rigorous scientific assessment of “potable reuse” as a potential water source.” (emphasis added by me)

Click here for the full text of the bill with the legislative counsel’s digest.

For background on San Diego’s potable reuse efforts, see the Water Purification Demonstration Project website.


Leave it to good old U-T San Diego. In the opening paragraph of its story on the bill, the U-T says that potable reuse has been “dubbed by critics as “toilet-to-tap.” The U-T’s headline? “Brown signs bill to boost SD ‘toilet-to-tap’ plans.” Once a critic, always a critic, eh?


6 Responses to “California potable reuse study gets a boost with SB 322”

  1. Burt Freeman said

    These Senate bills (SB 918 and SB 322) investigating “direct” potable reuse raise question after question in me, a physicist (and concerned citizen). I’m reminded of the photo in the Water Purification Demonstration Project literature of the sparkling glass of tempting water (it’s potable but don’t drink!). Why can’t I succum to temptation and drink it? Please tell me why; maybe the plant might fail to provide the (quartenary) processing that it is designed to provide; maybe the water is too pure to transmit through the distribution system; —-. Why does this pristine water need to be contaminated by mixing with raw water and sent (at considerable expense) through a treatment plant?

    Pardon me for being naive; aren’t these isssues that any competent engineer could easily solve (by finishing the water, and adding online testing and a little delay storage in the system). Why do we need legislation that calls for THREE YEARS of administratively-bagaged study? (Where is the spell-checker?)

  2. I think one reason they’re taking the slow path to direct potable reuse is due to continued public apprehension that CECs (constituents of emerging concern) in wastewater might survive the purification process, even though that requires pretending that CECs don’t already exist in our current raw water supply. -Gj

    • Burt Freeman said

      But CECs don’t survive the purifications stages, are tested for, and the water can be aborted if the plant fails to remove them. As you say, George, every day we drink water that is subject to this public aprehension; or maybe we don’t by drinking bottled water having the same purity concerns and a lot of environmental problems to boot.

  3. Merle Moshiri said

    Its the Dept. of Public Health that delays our using reclaimed water for drinking water. They have only been “studying it” for the last 20 – 30 year. Wheels of the future grind slowly where so many “jobs” depend on your keeping on and on with the study. Yes, the UT TIMES. Always ready for a backward glance.

  4. Rose said

    Thhanks for posting this

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