Using Resources Wisely
As water demand increases, the Sonoma County Water Agency strives to make efficient use of our limited supply of fresh water. Together with your local water supplier we are working to reduce demands on our system by implementing water conservation and water recycling programs.
What is Recycled Water?
Recycled water is cleaned wastewater from homes and businesses. Water from sinks, toilets and indoor plumbing goes to a treatment facility. Advanced treatment processes are used to remove bacteria and pollutants. Treated wastewater undergoes extensive testing to ensure that it meets strict standards set by the California Department of Health Services.
Will Using Recycled Water Impact My Water Rights?
No. Several sections of the California Water Code (Water Code) confirm that existing water rights are not lost, reduced or affected by when the water-right holder uses recycled water instead of using the supply under his water right.
The Path of Recycled Water:
The diagram below illustrates the path this water takes as it flows from our homes and businesses, is treated at a plant, and is then diverted for use in irrigation.
How Can We Use Recycled Water
The main use of recycled water is irrigation of crops and large landscaped areas such as golf courses, athletic fields, commercial and industrial parks, and cemeteries. More recently, its uses include process water for industry, wildlife habitat enhancement, residential landscapes, fountains and more. Recycled water is transported in your community through a system of purple pipes, completely separate from your drinking water and wastewater systems.
The Benefits of Using Recycled Water
- It conserves drinking water,
- It may benefit fish and other wildlife when less treated wastewater is discharged into and less fresh water is diverted from rivers and other water bodies, and
- It provides water for wetlands restoration.
In 1996, the Water Agency began to evaluate the potential for using recycled water in irrigation. The Water Agency has worked closely with agricultural and environmental groups, cities, towns, and districts to evaluate the potential for a recycled water distribution system that would link the reclamation systems operated by four municipalities and two sanitation districts. These facilities currently produce between 30,000 and 40,000 acre-feet of recycled water per year, a significant source for agricultural and municipal use. Of this, approximately 15,000 acre-feet are currently reused for urban and agricultural irrigation, with the remainder discharged during the winter into the Petaluma River, San Pablo Bay, or the Russian River and its tributaries. With the proposed construction of additional reservoirs, recycled water could instead be stored and used for agricultural and municipal irrigation, thereby reducing demand on the overall water supply system, enhancing the quality of surface waters, and contributing to the recovery of threatened fish and wildlife.
The Water Agency is currently studying water reuse systems that could be constructed in its service area to irrigate large landscaped areas with recycled water. The Water Agency's study will consist of
- Reviewing existing water reuse studies prepared by the water contractors,
- Identifying water reuse sites in areas where no previous water reuse studies have been performed,
- Estimating the reduction in peak water demands that are possible through water reuse, and
- Assessing construction costs associated with potential water reuse systems.
North Bay Water Reuse Authority
The Water Agency is proud to be a member of the North Bay Water Reuse Authority. The North Bay Water Reuse Authority is a coordinated effort of three counties and 10 water and sanitation agencies, working together as one entity, to address water supply shortages from a watershed perspective. The member agencies are investing in a number of diverse recycled water projects to offset potable demands throughout the North Bay region.