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The Great Water Waste

One way to mitigate a record-breaking drought: Stop throwing away perfectly good water.

All water, conventional scientific wisdom goes, is recycled. The Earth’s water has been here since the planet formed some 4.6 billion years ago, and any given molecule may have passed through the bodies of dinosaurs, fish throughout the oceans, the living tissue of giant trees and numerous human beings.

But water recycling in the more immediate, industrial sense refers to sewage water or gray water from our showers and sinks that is captured before it flows out to sea, purified with advanced technology and re-circulated back into the water grid. Many people believe the future of California, and much of the world, will rely on such water recycling.

The drought has not ended, California’s population is growing, and supplying communities and farms with water while protecting natural resources may become one of the greatest challenges of the century. While many state leaders and water agencies are pushing for new reservoirs, desalination plants and massive water conveyance projects to meet these challenges, others believe in a much simpler remedy: treating and reusing the water we already have — instead of dumping it into the ocean — to lessen the demands on our most precious natural resource.

In fact, it’s becoming common practice in many parts of the state. In El Dorado Hills, hundreds of new homes are being built with dual plumbing systems that send potable water to indoor taps through one pipe, and treated recycled water to outdoor sprinklers and spigots through another. A separate project in the planning stages will supply farmland near Elk Grove with recycled water, eliminating growers’ reliance on potable groundwater.

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