Orange County Sanitation District and Orange County Water District mentioned in Time Magazine article on “What it Will Take to Rebuild America” which highlights agencies, companies and projects that are leading the way with “transformative infrastructure projects.”
One group of structures, nothing to look at, houses an Orange County Sanitation District water-treatment facility. Each day some 185 million gallons of raw sewage flows in, and eventually the treated water flows out—not toxic, but not potable either. This wastewater used to be pumped through long pipes to disperse in the Pacific Ocean. But now more than half of the treated product goes next door, to nondescript facilities operated by the Orange County Water District. The OCWD strains the water through microscopic filters, then forces it by reverse osmosis through superfine membranes, and finally bombards it with high-intensity ultraviolet light.
What flows out of the facility, in volumes sufficient to meet the daily demands of roughly 850,000 people, is as pure as a sparkling glass of premium ice water. Pumping stations return it to the Orange County aquifer to percolate into wells for future drinking. The process costs less, and consumes less energy, than importing water from the Colorado River.
So the next Hoover Dam is no dam at all. It’s technology, invention, efficiency. Take a look at Singapore—one of the world’s infrastructure leaders, according to Germany’s respected Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Using the technology pioneered in Orange County, the island nation has replaced 40% of its freshwater consumption with recycled NEWater, as they call it. Infrastructure is shrinking even as it grows more powerful.
Like DeWitt Clinton and Arthur Powell Davis, the leaders of Orange County had to let go of the past to reach for the future. In the mid-1990s, the sanitation district was faced with a need to upgrade existing infrastructure. But instead of doubling down on what they already had, they built something completely different.
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