Orange County's "Toilet-to-Tap" Technology is Catching On

Orange County's "Toilet-to-Tap" Technology is Catching On

In November of 2000 for OC Weekly, I wrote "Waste Waterworld: Will Poop-to-Tap Plan Raise a Stink?" Oh, the comments I got from water officials for using words like "pee," "poop" and "the Ewww! Factor" in a piece about the Orange County Water District and Sanitation District's planned $600 million Groundwater Replenishment System. Well, the system survived my snarky reporting, went on to win awards and is now producing the water unwittingly slurped up by tourists operating drinking fountains at Disneyland.

I vaguely recall someone wondering aloud about the fairness of recycled water being foisted on lower-income central Orange County versus the upper-crustier coastal communities. Or maybe I said that to myself. Whatever. The point is, it's small wonder county officials dinged me for my salty lingo. They insisted on it only being referred to as the Groundwater Replenishment System after similar projects in LA and San Diego with more explicit names -- what, like "Hey, Angelenos, You're Drinking Piss System" and "San Diego Golden Showers in a Glass"? -- were scorned by the public and politicians alike. Maybe snarky reporters were fueling that rage, too.
Fast-forward to 2009, and along with desalination, central Orange County's sewer water recycling is being hailed as part of California's solution to a coming critical shortage of water--something that global warming is anticipated to exasperate. (Warming is also supposed to make sea levels rise to such an extent that Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Long Beach are imperiled; it's either not enough water or too much water, we're damned if we do, damned if we drown.)

Water Technology Online -- or as we like to call 'em in the biz, the trade journos who get all the chicks -- points to some sections in the Reuters news service's recent reporting on West Coast water shortages that includes LA County once again kicking around water recycling.

I found it amusing that the LA County Economic Corp. study on all this mentions that the Colorado River, which supplies water to seven western states--including California, of course--contains heavily treated waste water that has run off from countless communities along its banks, the implication being we are all already drinking recycled water. That exact same point was raised in November 2000 by Orange County water officials, before a certain reporter scribbling down poop jokes.


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