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From Drain to Spigot: What is Recycled Water
From Drain to Spigot: What is Recycled Water Image

With warmer weather comes sprinklers, watering cans, and hoses. But have you ever stopped to think about where your water comes from? It may be recycled! LA Sanitation and The Environment operates four water reclamation plants that serve over four million people. The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is the City’s primary plant and receives and treats a flow of about 260 million gallons per day of wastewater. Recently, Mayor Eric Garcetti has set a goal of recycling 100% of the treated water from this plant and 100% of all of LA’s wastewater by 2035 (read more about it here)! This plant is only the beginning of the city creating local water sources that are sustainable and resilient.

Never heard of recycled water? This article will give you the ins and outs.


What is recycled water?

Recycled water (also known as reclaimed water) is municipal wastewater that has been purified through multiple levels of treatment and can be reused. But what’s municipal wastewater? This is the water produced from the sinks, showers, toilets, appliances and machinery in our homes and businesses. In LA City, wastewater travels through miles of sanitary sewer lines to reach our 4 different treatment plants which can clean up to 580 million gallons of wastewater every day!


How is this water cleaned? Is it safe?

When the wastewater reaches the treatment plant, its journey is just beginning! Wastewater passes through six different stages at a treatment plant. First, it goes through preliminary treatment where large objects are screened and removed from the water. This is the stage that can get clogged by inappropriate materials flushed down toilets. Remember to only ever flush toilet paper as even ‘flushable’ wipes clog pipes! Next, the water enters a ‘grit removal chamber’ to remove smaller particles such as coffee grounds. Thereafter, the water passes through three more engineered treatments (primary, secondary, and tertiary) and a disinfection stage. Before the water is returned to the pipes, it must meet strict standards and is monitored closely. The result is a safe, clean source of water!


What can recycled water be used for? 

The use of recycled water is determined by the California Department of Public Health, the Regional Water Quality Control Board – Los Angeles Division, and the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Currently, California allows for recycled water to be used for non-potable purposes. This means you can use recycled water to irrigate your lawn and landscaping, water your garden, control dust, or cool machinery. However, you cannot use recycled water to drink, cook, bathe, shower, or fill your swimming pool because the water is not approved for consumption. Some counties in California are pioneering the use of recycled water and even using it to replenish groundwater


What are the benefits of recycled water? 

First and foremost, recycled water is great because it conserves water. Although 70% of the earth is covered in water, only 1% of this water is accessible freshwater! As the California population grows, this small resource is only going to get more scarce. Rather than pumping or diverting increasing amounts of this limited freshwater, recycling water allows us to reuse what we already have! This also helps reduce the cost of water, as it is no longer necessary to transport water long distances. Recycled water is also helpful because it is a drought-resistant source of water, and won’t decline when there is a lack of rainfall. 

The use of recycled water is crucial for the sustainability and resilience of the LA City watershed in the coming years. You can be a part of this future by getting free recycled water at a Los Angeles Residential Recycled Water Fill Station! After completing a brief training, residents can take up 300 gallons of recycled water to use for their own non-potable purposes! Learn more about the program here

Looking for more environmental news and tips? Email us at lastormwater@lacity.org



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