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Statement: San Diego’s “recycled H20 would be more purified than Orange County,” City Councilman Kevin Faulconer tweeted July 7.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: Last year, the City Council approved $11.8 million to study purifying sewage and adding it to San Diego’s drinkable water supply. The city began isolated tests of the process this year and Faulconer tweeted during a tour of the treatment facility July 7.

“SD recycled H20 would be more purified than Orange County. As u can see, SD takes water purification process seriously,” he wrote, sending out a picture of the pipe-layered facility.

Orange County began boosting its drinkable water supply with purified sewage three years before San Diego’s City Council approved to study a similar system here. San Diego’s proposed treatment process is based on Orange County’s but they are slightly different.

In Orange County, purified sewage is pumped into an underground aquifer and then put through additional treatment to make it drinkable. In San Diego, purified sewage would be pumped into a reservoir and then be put through more treatment to make it drinkable.

True to Faulconer’s tweet, the recycled water leaving San Diego’s sewage facility would be cleaner than the water now leaving Orange County’s. The sewage in San Diego runs through a third round of tiny filters that remove even more particles than in Orange County.

But there’s an important caveat in Faulconer’s comparison. The end product — the water you drink and bathe in — wouldn’t be measurably better in San Diego. The final treatment process that makes water drinkable is essentially the same in both places and purifies water to the same quality level.

Wait, but what about those additional tiny filters in San Diego? As far as the quality of drinkable water, they don’t matter. The filters may reduce the amount of work that needs to be done to make San Diego’s water drinkable, but both systems keep working until they have the same product.


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Both Orange County and San Diego water officials agreed. San Diego’s purified sewage would be cleaner after the first treatment process but water quality would likely be equal at the end. (They don’t know for sure since San Diego just began its pilot study.)

Our definition for Mostly True says the statement is accurate but contains an important nuance. Faulconer’s statement fits that definition. He accurately said that San Diego’s purified sewage would be cleaner but didn’t explain how the rest of the water purification process would even out the comparison.

But if you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Be sure to include your reasoning.

For more on San Diego’s purified sewage debate, check out this handy guide by my colleague Rob Davis, this previous Fact Check about the costs of purified sewage and this breakdown of the treatment process.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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