Recycled Water - FAQs

What is recycled water?

Recycled water is defined in the California Water Code as “…water which, as a result of treatment of waste, is suitable for a direct beneficial use or a controlled use that would not otherwise occur and is therefore considered a valuable resource. Basically, recycled water is highly treated wastewater that is reused for purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, or replenishing groundwater basins”.

What is recycled water used for?

This water can be used for a wide variety of non-potable uses such as landscape irrigation, toilet flushing and cooling towers in commercial buildings, and industrial processes such as carpet dyeing, concrete production and composting. However, this water is not approved for drinking. Every gallon of recycled water used for these purposes saves a gallon of drinking water.

Is recycled water regulated?

Yes. There are a variety of laws, regulations and statewide policies that govern how recycled water is defined, what it can be used for, and under what conditions in the State of California. Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations describes the treatment requirements for recycled water as well as the approved uses based on the level of treatment. Also included in Title 22 are the use area requirements which describe restrictions on its use and the requirement to notify the public through signage that a site is using recycled water. Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations describes the requirements for backflow prevention devices required at a site when recycled water is being used. This is to prevent recycled water from getting into the public drinking water system in the event a cross-connection occurs at a site where recycled water is used.

Is recycled water safe to drink?

Although recycled water is treated to a high standard that meets State regulations, tertiary treated recycled water is not approved for drinking purposes. However, if you accidentally drink some recycled water do not panic. Recycled water undergoes an intensive filtration and disinfection process. Just like accidentally drinking water from a pool, a person may ingest some recycled water without experiencing adverse health effects. If you experience any negative symptoms, call your doctor.
For pets: There is no harmful effect if and when your dog or cat drinks from a recycled water puddle, just like when they drink water running down a gutter in the street. Recycled water is safer than water from a ditch or pond. However, it is not recommended to give your pet recycled water to drink.

Is recycled water safe for children playing in parks?

Recycled water is approved for irrigation purposes. In over 80 years of recycled water use in California, there have been no documented cases of any ill effects from proper use. Incidental contact with recycled water, such as walking on grass after it has been watered, is safe for adults, children and pets.

How will I know if a site is being watered with recycled water?

Sites using recycled water will be clearly marked with appropriate signage.