Know Your H20
May 20 2010

San Diego is beginning to Know their H2O!

by Belinda Smith

Watch this short local news clip to understand Indirect Potable Reuse, or IPR as we call it.  IPR is is the fancy name for recycled sewage water that's been purified so we can use it for drinking, cooking and bathing.  In San Diego this process has long been called, Toilet to Tap, but as you will see in the video, it’s really toilet to treatment, to treatment, to treatment, to tap. 

 All water that exists now has been here since the beginning of time, and Mother Nature recycles it all naturally via the water cycle.  Effectively, we are already drinking naturally treated wastewater.  But because we need it faster than Mother Nature can produce it for us, we have engineered a treatment that speeds up the process for us.  The water that results from the IPR process is actually more pure than our existing water supply. 

It’s more pure than our existing supply because in Southern California, we live in a semi-desert, so we have to import our water.  This water supply travels thousands of miles from faraway places via aquaducts, or rivers.  The Colorado River for instance is used by over 200 cities along it’s route.  They all use the water and then dump their treated sewage back into it.  When it finally gets to us, it’s been through millions of people - literally!

Understanding The Name, IPR:
The word, "potable” means water that’s suitable to drink. Potable comes from the Latin, potare, meaning to drink.  Non-potable water would be used for irrigation or industry purposes.

The word, "indirect" just means the water will be put into a reservoir to mix in with our normal water supply instead of going directly into the pipes that deliver it to us.  This is actually not really necessary, and Surfrider envisions a day when communities have small purifying stations in each neighborhood to purify our wastewater.  These stations would be no larger than the public restrooms you see at the beach, and would save us tons of energy and money transporting the waste water down to the plant, and then back to our homes. For now, however, the new pure IPR water will go into the reservoir and mix in with the our regular supply.

Reuse is an obvious term, but hopefully it’s more clear that reuse is what’s been going on in nature for millions of years, and by implementing IPR we can mimic what is naturally occurring and create a ‘new’ supply of water for our communities.

Surfrider Foundation also supports IPR because it means less wastewater ending up in our ocean, and less desalination factories built on our coasts.