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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Redwood City’s Recycled Water Project

Questions Regarding the Use of Recycled Water

  1. What is recycled water?
  2. What kind of water will SBSA produce and what will it be used for?
  3. Will the recycled water be safe for kids playing in the parks?
  4. Kids play in the parks and sometimes drink from sprinklers. What happens if a kid drinks from a sprinkler?
  5. Has anybody ever gotten sick from recycled water?
  6. What happens if a child falls down in a pool of recycled water and has an open cut? Will the cut get infected?
  7. What happens if my dog or cat drinks from a recycled water puddle?
  8. Who develops the health standards for recycled water?
  9. Is the operation and maintenance process reliable?
  10. Where else is recycled water used?
  11. Is recycled water safe to drink?
  12. How will recycled water get to the users?
  13. Is the use of Recycled Water mandatory?
  14. Could recycled water get mixed with Redwood City’s drinking water?
  15. How will I know if the water I see sprinkling parks and other outdoor spaces is drinking water or recycled water?
  16. Will this water smell bad?
  17. What about recycled water and our landscaping?
  18. Does recycled water give our landscape sufficient minerals?
  19. Who is going to pay for the recycled water connections?
  20. Does recycled water cause spots on vehicles?
     

Questions Regarding the Use of Recycled Water

  1. What is recycled water?
    The California Water Code defines recycled water as “water which, as a result of treatment of waste, is suitable for a direct beneficial use or a controlled use that would not otherwise occur.” Water recycling allows water managers to match water quality to specific reuse applications. This reduces the amount of fresh water required for non drinking uses, ensuring that the best and purest sources of water will be reserved for the highest use - public drinking water. In our area, wastewater is processed and treated at South Bayside System Authority (SBSA) located in southeastern Redwood Shores. After entering the plant, wastewater from homes and businesses undergoes a carefully regulated purification and disinfection process. Throughout the process, samples are taken and tested in a state-of-the-art laboratory to ensure high-quality water.
     
  2. What kind of water will SBSA produce and what will it be used for?
    The recycled water will be treated to a very high quality (California Title 22 Standards).

    Reclaimed water, now treated by SBSA, goes to the San Francisco Bay. Under the proposed project, the reclaimed water will be treated so it can be used for outdoor landscape irrigation of large private landscape areas, and in the future it also can be used for industrial purposes. It will be good for plants in most situations. The vast majority of plants do fine with recycled water; the impacts of “hardwater” (salinity or minerals) on acid loving plants could reduce growth and produce spotting on some leaves. The proposed project will replace sensitive plants that show stress with plants that are more suitable for the bay front environment.
     
  3. Will the recycled water be safe for children playing in parks?
    The water will be treated to a quality that can be used to supply a recreational lake used for boating and swimming. The California Department of Health Services has determined that with the treatment process proposed the water is essentially “pathogen free.” In other words this water is carefully monitored and cleaner and safer than water at most beaches.
    However,
     
  4. Children play in the parks and sometimes drink from sprinklers. What happens if a child drinks from a sprinkler?
    Just as kids may swallow some water at a beach, they could swallow some recycled water without getting sick. Adverse health effects from recycled water could appear only if it were ingested in very large quantities over an extended period of time. That is why it is not intended for drinking.
     
  5. Has anybody ever gotten sick from recycled water?
    No. Recycled water is commonly used throughout the country, and there are no reported cases of illness or allergies as a result of its use for the intended purpose of landscape irrigation.
     
  6. What happens if a child falls down in a pool of recycled water and has an open cut? Will the cut get infected?
    No. The cut should be cleaned just as would be the case after any fall. Getting dirt into the cut would be more serious than the exposure to recycled water.
     
  7. What happens if my dog or cat drinks from a recycled water puddle?
    Just the same thing that happens when they drink water running down a gutter in the street: no harmful effects. The water will be safer than if the pet drank from a ditch or pond.
     
  8. Who develops the health standards for recycled water?
    The California Department of Public Health (DPH) establishes and enforces the standards for recycled water. DPH has established water quality standards and treatment reliability criteria for recycled water.

    Both Redwood City and the customers using the water for irrigation must meet State requirements for recycled water. Redwood City’s First Step Recycled Water Project has been approved by the DPH and any expanded program will be too. In addition, the California Regional Water Quality Control Boards issues water recycling permits based on the established DPH regulations.
     
  9. Is the operation and maintenance process reliable?
    Yes. Redwood City’s Public Works Services Department will also operate the proposed Recycled Water Program. Public Works has an unblemished record in operating the City’s drinking water system. Under the proposed Recycled Water Project, each irrigation site will be carefully evaluated and routinely inspected by the Public Works staff.
     
  10. Where else is recycled water used?
    Recycling water is long past the experimental stage in this country and throughout the world. It is being used for crop irrigation as well as in parks, school playing fields and other open spaces in many states including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. In California, recycled water is used in San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sunnyvale, Windsor, San Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. These and dozens of other communities use recycled water for landscape irrigation at schools, parks, median strips, large landscape areas, and golf courses. Recycled water also is used in office parks, indoor fire protection and toilet flushing in commercial buildings, fountains, and car washes.
     
  11. Is recycled water safe to drink?
    Redwood City’s recycled water project is for landscape irrigation and industrial uses only. However, indirect drinking water reuse occurs in many communities as recycled water from an upstream community rejoins a river and becomes part of a downstream water supply. In addition, groundwater recharge projects in Southern California have an excellent track record of success, with over 30 years of history and no outbreaks of waterborne disease linked to recycled water. Through groundwater recharge, recycled water is percolated into groundwater basins, mixes with naturally-occurring groundwater, and eventually is pumped out for drinking water use. Treatment technologies are constantly improving, and indirect potable reuse is likely to become a well accepted part of future water supply planning.
     
  12. How will recycled water get to the users?
    Redwood City has built a new distribution system for the water from the recycling plant. The water will be used primarily in the Redwood Shores and Greater Bayfront areas for public and large landscape accounts this is referred to as Phase One of the project. A pipeline has been constructed from the SBSA facility to areas requesting recycled water. See Project Maps.
     
  13. Is the use of Recycled Water mandatory?
    Use of recycled water by Home Owner Associations in the Redwood Shores area is not mandatory. A new Redwood City Recycled Water Use Ordinance was adopted by the City Council on July 7th, 2008 and took effect on August 6th, 2008. Click here to see the details of this new ordinance.
     
  14. Could recycled water get mixed with Redwood City’s drinking water?
    Pursuant to state law, the City installed a separate set of purple colored pipes to carry the recycled water. There will be no direct interconnections or cross connections between the two water systems. These systems will be regularly monitored to ensure safety.
     
  15. How will I know if the water I see sprinkling parks and other outdoor spaces is drinking water or recycled water?
    Landscape areas using recycled water will be clearly marked with signage clearly stating the use of recycled water.
     
  16. Will this water smell bad?
    It is possible some people may detect a slight chlorine odor, usually less than a swimming pool or hot tub.
     
  17. What about recycled water and our landscaping?
    The Redwood City Public Works Services Department will provide an extensive program of support services and information as well as direct assistance to recycled water customers.

    Assistance provided will include:
    • Site evaluations.
    • Soil and plant tissue analysis and recommendations.
    • Water quality information.
    • Irrigation system evaluations and ways to improve conservation.
    • Training for site supervisors.
    • Workshops in successful landscape management, with specific suggestions on using recycled water most effectively.
    • Plant evaluation and replacements if necessary.
    • Reimbursement for some irrigation equipment upgrades or adjustments. Determine on a site by site basis.
       
  18. Does recycled water give our landscape sufficient minerals?
    Recycled water can play a major role in the successful management of turf grasses in our area. Because recycled water is produced from municipal wastewater, the large volumes of water needed to maintain adequate turf growth are readily available even during periods of water shortage. The higher nutrient content of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in recycled water is beneficial to turf grasses. In many cases, turf and other landscape plants will be able to obtain from recycled water all the phosphorous and potassium they require, and a large part of their nitrogen requirement. Sufficient micro-nutrients are also supplied by recycled water. Sensitive grasses such as those used on golf course putting green may need to be irrigated using potable water or the soil occasionally flushed to carry away accumulated salts.
     
  19. Who is going to pay for the recycled water connections?
    For existing customers, such as landscape irrigation accounts, the City’s proposed project will pay 100 % of the connection cost. There will be no connection fees for existing customers. For future new customers, a connection fee will apply.
     
  20. Does recycled water cause spots on vehicles?
    Any type of water will spot cars if allowed to dry on the surfaces, and water that has more minerals could produce more noticeable spotting. However, irrigation schedules will occur at night and if cars are in driveways, it is unlikely they will be impacted with overspray from sprinklers.
     

This informational is provided by the Redwood City Public Works Services Department. If you have additional questions or need more information, please call us at 650.620.9950 or 650.743.5759. Or e-mail constructioninfo@datainstincts.com.
 

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