Ask the Guru: How Can We Encourage Water Recycling?

Earle Hartling, Water Recycling Coordinator for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, is answering questions on all issues on recycled water over on Linked In Pulse. Got a question to ask? Go to Linked In via the link and ask away.

Here is a sneak a preview of what Earle the “Guru” (as known to his colleagues) has to say from his experience in the industry:

Question: “I see where your LinkedIn profile shows that you’re having your 35 year anniversary working with recycled water. From all that time in the industry, do you have any general advice on promoting recycled water?”            – How the heck did you last so long?           

Dear How the Heck,

If there’s anything the Guru isn’t short of, it’s advice! And now is the perfect time to reflect back as today is my actual 35-year anniversary working for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. While toiling all those years to expand the Districts’ water recycling program, I’ve found that, when developing a water recycling program, the following core principles should be kept in mind, for both in-house and collaborative efforts. I’ve limited the list to principles of general interest and application, without being specific to Los Angeles or the State of California:

Recycled water is a RESOURCE, not a WASTE (emphasis intentional). Regulating it as a “waste,” as so many regulators tend to do, diminishes its perceived value by potential users, adds unnecessary regulatory burden with associated costs and inhibits public acceptance by attaching an unwarranted stigma that can cause the public to fear and mistrust it. High quality tertiary treated recycled water can readily meet nearly all State and Federal drinking water standards and it can be used for literally anything short of direct drinking water (so far). Recycled water has intrinsic value, especially in areas where traditional water supplies are extremely limited (thank you, law of supply and demand).

Recycled water systems are not built to address the current drought, but in anticipation of the next. The popularity of recycled water increases significantly during the throes of a drought-induced water shortage, but this interest can drop off just as quickly during periods of adequate precipitation and surface water supplies. Water purveyors need to take a longer view of their water supply situation, since recycled water distribution pipelines can’t be built fast enough to address an immediate shortage. Rather, those times when water supplies are plentiful, or even just adequate, should be seen as grace periods in which recycled water pipelines can be planned for, constructed and placed into service before the next drought and resulting water supply crisis inevitably hits.

The economics of recycled water use will improve when compared to future potable water costs. As competition for water increases and traditional supplies become more restricted and less reliable, as well as more expensive, recycled water supplies will become even more economically attractive for both water purveyors and end users. It’s a local supply which generally can’t be taken by competing water demands, such as other states, agriculture, fish, etc.

Follow this link to see his full answer.


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Megan Barillo

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