Given our current drought, where will we get the water we need when we need it? Lots of potential solutions are proffered — more dams, sea water desalinization, groundwater recharge, major reductions in water use, but one alternative is seldom mentioned — recycled water.

Yes, several Peninsula cities have limited recycled water for exterior irrigation and golf course maintenance, but to my knowledge, no recycled potable water for domestic use. Why is this? We are clearly capable of producing clean, safe, domestic potable water (several recycling plants can already do it), but we do not embrace this alternative. Is it the “yuck” factor where many of us just can’t continue recycling our own waste — especially for drinking water?

But that’s exactly what we do every day. Every drop of water on this planet has been recycled by nature billions of times. When we ultimately dump our wastewater into the Bay or ocean, it’s not gone for good. Over time, it evaporates into the atmosphere and condenses into clouds which then release it back to us in the form of rain to recharge our reservors or groundwater where it is stored and eventually sent back into our homes.

So why not shorten this complex process and recycle our wastewater directly. If even 50% of our domestic water supply was recycled, our water supply would be greatly strengthened and reliable even in the face of prolonged drought. It’s basically a no-brainer. If we can just get past that “yuck” factor.

David Crabbe

San Carlos

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(2) comments

Terence Y

That’s a great idea, Mr. Crabbe. Its wholly appropriate for CA since it seems to me that most Californians have gotten past that “yuck” factor. After all, we’re pretty much mired in “yuck” – yuck policies, yuck leadership, using almost 50% of our water to send fish “yuck” to the ocean, with no noticeable effect on fish population…


Mr. Crabbe, you can reduce your water usage (by more than 50%) per California Plumbing Code by using gray water (Laundry, Bathroom sinks, Showers, and Bath Tubs). Check out;


or Google California gray water requirements.

It does get a bit more complicated to recycle gray water back into your house for toilet flushing (and permitting is required), but legal all the same. In fact a lot of local cities are taking up policies that new housing developments are gray water ready

As for a larger community black water system, it just gets exponentially more complicated and expensive as they have to upgrade the main plant and then re pipe every single house in your neighborhood. And in this case I do agree with Terence, we just haven't gotten past the 'ick' factor.

If we all do our fair share part at home we can significant dent this ongoing problem.

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