Amid California Drought, Toilet-to-Tap Program Gaining Support


In drought-stricken California, there is growing momentum for a program that recycles toilet water into drinking water. The program is known as "toilet-to-tap."

"It is the cleanest water we have in the state of California," Mike Markus, Orange County Water District general manager.

One of these purification plants, located in Orange County is expanding production from 70M to 100M gallons a day. "We're able to provide enough water for nearly 850,000 people a year," said Markus.

Waste water that would normally drain into the Pacific Ocean goes through a rigorous three-step purification process that includes microfiltration, exposure to UV light and hydrogen peroxide, which kills everything left behind.

Officials say the water treated at the Orange County plant exceeds state and federal standards. It's so clean, some people complain the water actually has no taste.

The purified water is pumped into underground reservoirs before it makes it to household taps.

"We can produce the water for less than the cost of imported water," said Markus, "and probably about half the cost of what it would take to desalinate seawater."

The big issue faced by the program is the public perception of drinking toilet water.

"The term that has been coined, 'from the toilet to the tap,'" said Yoram Cohen, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UCLA, "is omitting the fact that there is a lot of treatment in between, so it gives the wrong perception."

Maybe so, but is that enough to convince people to start drinking recycled toilet water?