by Bob Castle
Like bottles, cans, and paper, water can be recycled too. MMWD recycles up to two million gallons of water a day at our Las Gallinas Valley Reclamation Plant. The water we recycle is wastewater that has been treated by the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District. At our recycled water treatment plant we filter it and treat it further so that it meets the most stringent standards in the United States for recycled water. The finished water is crystal clear, odorless, and free of harmful bacteria. It is similar in quality to swimming pool water.
The recycled water is then distributed via a separate pipeline system to 350 customers in northern San Rafael, Terra Linda, and Marinwood who use it for irrigation, toilet flushing, and other non-drinking purposes. Using recycled water for these purposes saves over 900 acre-feet of potable water annually—enough to meet the needs of 2,700 MMWD households for one year.
With our limited water supplies, the use of recycled water might appear to be a panacea. However, the biggest obstacle to expanded use of recycled water is cost. Recycled water requires a separate distribution system to avoid the possibility of cross-connections with potable water. Our current system required the construction of 25 miles of pipeline, 3 storage tanks, and 4 pump stations, in addition to retrofitting each customer’s private irrigation system to separate it from the potable system. Significantly expanding the recycled water distribution system could be twice as expensive as desalination, another water source being considered by MMWD.
Despite the challenges, we continue to explore ways to increase the use of recycled water. This year we are designing an expansion of the distribution system to bring recycled water to the Peacock Gap Golf Course in San Rafael.