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Clean Water Advocates Call Proposed Recycled Water Rules 'Permissive'

May 1, 2014

Credit Valley Public Radio

The California State Water Resources Control Board is responding to the drought by proposing to change the permitting process for recycled water production. As Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, clean water advocates want tighter quality controls.

When California Governor Jerry Brown first declared a drought emergency at the beginning of the year, the state water board started drafting a new process so more household wastewater can be recycled for irrigation.

Scott Couch:  “It is a valuable resource.”

Scott Couch is with the water quality division at the State Water Board. He says the new permit is a blueprint regional water managers can use to speed up approvals for reclaimed water – what is now an involved process.

Crouch:“We encourage recycled water used for beneficial use and it aids in conservation of potable water supplies.”

The idea is that the more reclaimed water is used for landscaping and agriculture, the more potable water is available  for drinking. The state has made 800 million dollars available in loans for recycled water production. But water clean water advocates say the new permitting process would be permissive. Jennifer Clary is with Clean Water Action.

Crouch: “One question is, is this sufficiently protective against degradation by salt and nutrients. And honestly I just don’t know at this point.”

Clary says she would like to see specific monitoring requirements for salt and nitrate – a pollution problem particular to the Central Valley. She would also like a process so local projects have individualized plans to prevent water degradation.  The State water Board says the new rules would require producers to follow regional pollution control plans. The public has until end of May to comment on the rules before they’re implemented.