State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that calls for a dramatic decrease in the amount of treated wastewater that is dumped into the ocean each year.
California’s wastewater has historically been treated solely as waste: used once, treated and then disposed of through offshore dumping. As a result, approximately 400 billion gallons of treated water are discarded into the ocean or California estuaries annually. That figure equates to 1.1 billion a day – the equivalent of over 12 Rose Bowls.
“I introduced a bill on this exact subject nearly four years ago, and it pains me that nothing has improved. It is backwards for Southern California to continue importing water by sticking a straw in the Colorado River, or in the North, while we’re also dumping billions of gallons of water into the ocean,” Hertzberg said. “The reality of climate change has led our society to shift toward sustainable and renewable electricity; we must rethink our water policy with the same view toward sustainability.”
Today’s water recycling technology allows facilities to treat and reuse water safely, helping reduce energy consumption, increase water security and improve coastal water quality. Further, there are a number of beneficial uses for recycled water, such as for groundwater recharge, landscape and agricultural irrigation and surface water augmentation.
“California is embarrassingly behind when it comes to water recycling,” Wiener said. “We dump an enormous amount of water in the ocean that could be recycled. SB 332 helps address this problem by setting aggressive and attainable goals to reduce the amount of water we are wasting. Our droughts are only going to become more frequent and more severe. We must take aggressive steps now to prepare for this future.”
SB 332 promotes the development of local water supplies by requiring wastewater treatment facilities to reduce the volume of treated wastewater discharged into the ocean annually by 50 percent in 2030 and 95 percent by 2040.
The measure has already drawn support from leading environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, a sponsor of the bill.
SB 332 will receive its first committee hearing in the coming months.
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