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State Water Board Releases Feasibility Report on Regulation of Direct Potable Reuse

On September 8, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Water Board) Division of Drinking Water (DDW) released its “Investigation on the Feasibility of Developing Uniform Water Recycling Criteria for Direct Potable Reuse” (Feasibility Report), which concludes it is feasible to regulate the direct potable reuse of recycled water.  Direct potable reuse is the addition of recycled water directly into a public water system or into a raw water supply upstream of a waste water treatment facility.  The Feasibility Report does not itself clear the way for direct potable reuse of recycled water, but marks the recognition by state drinking water regulators that recycled water may be a viable source of supply.  Consequently, although finding that direct potable reuse has “great potential,” the State Water Board acknowledges that scientific and technical challenges exist and should continue to be addressed to ensure the protection of public health.

The Feasibility Report was prepared pursuant to legislative mandate requiring the State Water Board and its drinking water predecessor, the Department of Public Health, to convene an expert panel to examine the feasibility of developing uniform water recycling criteria for direct potable reuse.  Specifically, the expert panel was tasked with studying the scientific and technical issues surrounding direct potable reuse and identifying additional areas of research needed to develop uniform direct potable reuse standards for the protection of public health.  The Feasibility Report concludes that the regulation and development of criteria for direct potable reuse is feasible.  Nonetheless, the report recommends that certain research be continued regarding methods of water quality monitoring and risk assessment before and/or concurrently with the development of direct potable reuse criteria to ensure a level of public health protection as good as or better than those currently provided for conventional drinking water supplies or indirect potable reuse.  Additionally, the Feasibility Report commits the State Water Board to continue researching knowledge gaps regarding the reliability of direct potable reuse systems.  The report explains that while the absence of this science and information does not make the development of criteria for the regulation of direct potable reuse infeasible, the additional research will contribute to the development of criteria and provide a higher level of certainty that direct potable reuse is protective of public health.

The Feasibility Report is currently in draft form, and the State Water Board is accepting comment on the draft report until October 23, 2016.  The Feasibility Report can be accessed here.  In addition, the State Water Board will hold public workshops in Los Angeles and Sacramento on October 4, 2016, and October 6, 2016, respectively.  Additional information on the workshops can be accessed here.   Finally, the DDW intends to provide an informational update to the State Water Board at its regular meeting on December 15, 2016, before finalizing the Feasibility Report for presentation to the Legislature by the end of the year.

For more information, please contact Jason Canger at jcanger@somachlaw.com.

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