Recycled Water – A Privileged Class

     Recycled Water is treated wastewater delivered for irrigation and similar non-potable water uses. The largest Coachella Valley water companies, Desert Water Agency and Coachella Valley Water District, deliver a Recycled Water product that includes more than treated wastewater. They add potable water to the mix and the result is a hybrid combination of two. The term potable signifies the water is suitable for drinking.

     Recycled Water has been exempted from most local and State Water Resources Control Board mandatory water usage restrictions. Whether the state board’s definition of Recycled Water includes the hybrid product being delivered by the local agencies is unknown. It’s for that reason I’ve sent inquiries asking whether the local non-standard Recycled Water product qualifies for exemption from water usage restrictions.

     The following are copies of my recently sent inquiries.

Date: Wed, 22 July 2015
Subject: Recycled Water Policy

Dear State Water Resources Control Board:

I’m a Coachella Valley resident interested in learning more about your Recycled Water Policies. It’s my understanding you have exempted users of Recycled Water from your mandatory conservation restriction requirements.

I’ve been led to understand the Recycled Water term is intended to represent non-potable treated wastewater that is used for irrigation of parks, golf courses and similar purposes. It’s not supposed to include fresh potable water.

Coachella Valley has two major water districts that both treat wastewater for delivery to golf course and local parks. Their names are Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA). Neither agency furnishes Recycled Water of the exact type I’ve described above.

CVWD imports Colorado River water via canal. They mix it with treated wastewater and deliver to customers (primarily golf courses) as Recycled Water.

DWA pumps fresh water from the aquifer that it mixes with treated wastewater. The mix is then delivered to customer accounts (golf courses and city parks) as Recycled Water.

Does the State Water Resources Control Board have a definition of what is intended by their use of the term Recycled Water?

Is the mixing of either freshly pumped water or Colorado River water with treated wastewater eligible for classification by you as Recycled Water?

Should the hybrid mix of treated wastewater and potable water be considered as Recycled Water and eligible for exclusion from your water conservation restrictions?

For documentation purposes the CVWD handling of Recycled Water is discussed in the local Desert Sun’s newspaper 2013 story titled “Coachella Valley Water District looks to speed efforts to take golf courses off groundwater” using the following link.

The DWA handling of Recycled Water is discussed in the local KESQ Channel 3 news report of March 25, 2015 titled “New wells help the Desert Water Agency recycle more water” in the following link.


Bond Shands
Palm Springs

Date: Fri, 24 July 2015
Subject: Recycled Water Policy – Part Two

Dear State Water Resources Control Board:

In an earlier email I reported that Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency were each mixing potable water with treated wastewater and labeling the combination Recycled Water. It is then delivered for use to irrigate golf courses, parks and other grassy landscape needs. That report was to document my request for your definition of Recycled Water and whether the combination of potable and treated wastewater met that definition.

With respect to the same Recycled Water subject, it’s my understanding neither water agency includes potable water delivered as Recycled Water in their water usage reports.

I would appreciate learning your position with respect to whether potable water delivered as Recycled Water is a violation of, or is exempt from, your reporting requirements.


Bond Shands
Palm Springs

     Recycled Water users are definitely a privileged class. They are not subject to the same usage restrictions imposed on potable water customers. Those restrictions are intended to discourage irrigating grass and similarly landscaped areas by limiting the days, times and amount of water that may be used. Recycled Water users are, if anything, encouraged to irrigate grass and similarly landscaped areas. One obvious conclusion is that if your property contains large amounts of grass, converting to Recycled Water would be a nice option to consider.
     Should Recycled Water users be a privileged class? The practice of mixing freshly pumped aquifer water or Colorado River water with treated wastewater in order to satisfy the needs of Recycled Water users begs the question of whose best interests are being served by local water agencies. As for the practice itself, it almost appears as if intended to artificially lower reported potable water usage statistics.

Bond Shands
July 24, 2015
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