Mayor Jerry Sanders opposes any program that would convert wastewater to drinking water, the mayor’s spokesman said today.

A council committee is slated to hear a report July 26 outlining the value of various recycled water plans. The mayor will ask the City Council to accept the report, but won’t be advocating for a long-standing plan that would recycle wastewater for potable uses.

“The mayor is asking the City Council to do nothing more than accept the report but take no action,” said Fred Sainz, the mayor’s spokesman.

The report that will be delivered to the City Council details six plans for water reuse, four of which include proposals for “indirect potable reuse” – a treatment process that turns wastewater into drinking water and is known derisively by opponents as “toilet to tap.”

In compiling the report, the city assembled a 67-member group that included political, civic, environmental and business representatives to review the possibilities for using recycled water in the city.

The group, known as the City of San Diego Assembly on Water Reuse, voted unanimously to support recycling wastewater for human consumption.

Proponents of this strategy, who include scientists and environmental groups, argue that the city needs to develop its own water supply rather than relying heavily on water from the Colorado River. They say that recycled wastewater is, in fact, cleaner than the water that comes from other sources.

Opponents of recycling wastewater into drinking water claim that the city should focus more on conserving water rather than recycling it, and that potential malfunctions at treatment facilities could endanger public health.

Sainz said, however that Sanders simply “doesn’t feel that it’s appropriate for him to take up this issue.”

“The mayor believes the city has more important priorities at this point and that he was really elected to concentrate on the city’s fiscal priorities,” he said.

Public outcry killed a previous movement to bring recycled water programs to San Diego. In 1999, the City Council directed the city manager to not spend any more money on programs that involved turning wastewater into drinking water. A coalition of environmental groups revived the idea in 2004, and the City Council decided to conduct a one-year study of water reclamation options.

The report to be delivered to the council is a product of that study.


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