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Archived News Release from 2003

For Immediate Release

City Council Approves Environmental and Safety Findings on Use of Recycled Water

Redwood City, CA - July 30, 2003 – At a meeting that started Monday night and lasted well into early Tuesday morning, the City Council of Redwood City approved two resolutions on the use of recycled water for irrigation and industrial use. The City Council found that such use of recycled water will not have a significant effect on the environment, and is safe and environmentally responsible. The proposed recycled water project is seen as a key element in solving the City's current and future water shortage.

After hearing a staff presentation, expert testimony by medical doctors who agreed on the water's safe use, and public comment both for and against the proposal, the Council passed the resolutions at 3:00 am, setting the stage for the next steps toward a final approved project. Those next steps include determining what specific elements of a recycled water program are necessary to make it financially viable and responsive to the community's needs and concerns.

The project proposes to provide the community with approximately 650,000,000 gallons of water annually for irrigation of landscaping, and for water-intensive industrial use. This will save the City that amount of water from its primary source, Hetch Hetchy, making that much more water available for household and hospital use. Under the proposed project, use on common landscaping areas, such as that managed by homeowners' associations, would be voluntary. The project will likely be funded through City-issued bonds and low-interest loans, with the first customer connections possible in the summer of 2005.

Currently, the City is 100% reliant on one source of water – Hetch Hetchy. Just to meet its current needs, the City uses 1,000 acre-feet (approximately 325 million gallons) more than its allocation, annually. The use of this additional water, purchased from other cities, can be revoked at any time, leaving the City short of water to meet its current needs. This shortage will be critically compounded when the next drought hits, during which all cities will be severely impacted and water cutbacks will become necessary. Aggressive conservation alone will not solve the problem; a combination of conservation and use of "drought-proof" recycled water has been proven throughout California as a viable, safe, feasible means of meeting a community's water needs.

At Monday's meeting, the Council heard expert testimony from two local pediatricians, a Stanford University Medical Center clinical professor of medicine/epidemiologist and infectious disease and the medical director of outpatient services at San Mateo Medical Center, who agreed that the risk of health problems resulting from children playing on fields irrigated with recycled water is "virtually non-existent."

The experts also noted that such ‘tertiary treated' recycled water is cleaner than the water in a typical public swimming pool, and contains less contaminants than are found in the grass it irrigates, or even on the hands of children in the first place. Staff also pointed to over 40 years of use of recycled water in California, which has the highest water treatment standards in the world, noting that there has not been one documented case of anyone becoming ill from contact with recycled water properly used for irrigation.

In the counties of Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa, and Sonoma alone, recycled water is used to irrigate at least 76 parks and 40 school playing fields. Throughout California and other states, recycled water is successfully used in playgrounds, parks, school playing fields, recreation areas, landscaping, wildlife habitat, and industry. Additionally, recycled water is already used on many California food crops, such as strawberries, artichokes, broccoli, and lettuce, which are sold in markets today and safely consumed by RWC families.

The issue is expected to next come before the City Council on August 11 (tentative), at which time staff will present a refined economic and financial analysis of a proposed project, and proposed funding mechanisms.

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Peter Ingram
Director, Public Works Services

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