by Bob Castle
This weekend the Las Gallinas Valley Reclamation Plant, MMWD’s two-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) recycled water treatment facility, will celebrate its 20th birthday. The plant was dedicated October 17, 1989—just hours before the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. (Fortunately the new plant came through unscathed.)
MMWD’s water recycling program dates back even further to the drought of 1976-77 when a pilot plant, built in 1975, was used for drought relief. We completed a permanent one-MGD treatment plant in 1981 in partnership with the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District. The 1989 dedication marked the doubling of the plant’s production capacity to two-MGD.
Traditionally, recycled water is used for landscape irrigation. In order to make the most efficient use of the treatment facility and distribution system, MMWD pioneered the use of recycled water for other purposes. In fact, our north San Rafael service area is home to:
- The first air-conditioning cooling tower in California to use recycled water
- The first car wash in California to use recycled water (Betts Marin Car Wash)
- The first commercial laundry in the United States to use recycled water (Nazareth House)
- The first use of recycled water for a single family residence in Northern California (Northview Development)
- The first penal institution to use recycled water for toilet flushing (Marin County Jail)
To help pave the way for an expanded use of recycled water in Marin and around the state, MMWD initiated several pieces of legislation that authorized new uses of recycled water. The new laws resulted in the creation of low-interest loans to fund water recycling projects; the ability for public agencies to require dual plumbing in new construction so that toilets can be flushed with recycled water; and the authorization of dual plumbing systems for office buildings, theaters, auditoriums, schools, hotels, apartments, barracks, condominiums, dormitories, jails, and prisons.
Today, Marin has about 20 buildings that use recycled water to flush toilets and urinals—more than anywhere else in the US except for Irvine, California (40 buildings).