- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cleared San Diego officials to continue pursuing a $3 billion water recycling program, Pure Water San Diego, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The wastewater recycling plant is expected to break ground in 2018 and generate one-third of San Diego's drinking water by 2035. The first phase, scheduled for completion in 2021, would produce 30 million gallons of drinking water each day.
- San Diego received permission to continue operating the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant for five years, even though the plant does not meet federal clean water standards, as part of an agreement between officials and regulators to pursue Pure Water San Diego.
- The water recycling program is expected to receive about $492 million through a low-interest loan from the federal government to jumpstart the plant.
There aren't many examples of cities around the world reclaiming sewage for potable water, so San Diego is sailing into relatively uncharted territory. While nearby Orange County does use reclaimed wastewater to replenish groundwater, it isn't injected directly to the drinking supply. Pure Water San Diego, on the other hand, would directly supply drinking water from reclaimed wastewater.
However, San Diego's plant won't be the first direct-to-potable plant in the world. Veolia operates a plant in Namibia that recycles wastewater into drinking water. Singapore, too, generates potable water from its sewage. Both operations are in areas that experience water shortages, so it's only natural that decision makers would seek out creative solutions.
Climate change will bring about a multitude of challenges — including dealing with water scarcity. Part of becoming a smart city is developing resiliency to deal with those kinds of challenges. San Diego, which has already suffered drought and is susceptible to further water scarcity, could be investing in significant savings for its future by developing a plant that will let the city recycle water. While the idea of drinking or bathing with recycled wastewater might not be the easiest sell for consumers, it is possible — especially with comprehensive education programs that explaining the process of treating water.