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Friday, July 28, 2006 | Recently, our mayor came out with a statement saying he would likely veto council’s decision if they chose to sustain San Diego’s water supply via indirect potable reuse. Mayor Sanders has also said he drinks tap water. Sounds a bit hypocritical doesn’t it?

Let me explain. San Diego started receiving water from the Colorado River in November of 1947. But we’re at the end of the line. Before we get anything from the Colorado River pipeline, there are 615 municipal dischargers putting EPA minimum-standard treatment water into the river. Our water from the Bay Delta is composed of almost fifty percent municipal (sewage), industrial (including arsenic and mercury from mining), and agricultural (pesticides, fertilizer) discharges – about 2.1 billion gallons of it. In layman’s terms, that’s a whole lot of you-know-what.

So, since 1947, our city has been subject to unplanned, unregulated indirect potable reuse. That’s almost 59 years of turning the sewage of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and other Californian cities into drinking water. It’s not a well-known fact, but a fact all the same.

Here’s another fact: the multi-barrier process that would be used to treat our own reclaimed water is proven to remove contaminants to the point where they either cannot even be detected or are far below levels that cause health problems. Not to mention that after this exhaustive treatment, the water will be treated again after supplementing our reservoirs. That’s more protection against viruses, bacteria, hormones and pharmaceuticals than we have right now.

San Diego, the water we would get from this process the Water Department proposes is cleaner than the water our Mayor drinks from his faucet. With our other, more expensive options disappearing fast alongside our booming population, it’s really not a question of ‘if’ we’ll recycle our own water to potable levels, but ‘when’. The sustainable source of drinking water is just too valuable and the science too sound for us to ignore the opportunity. We cannot afford to pretend this is a new, unsettling idea.

After all, our taps have been connected to toilets for years – just not our own.

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