A new report from the National Resource Council asserts that national water supplies, particularly along coastal areas, “could significantly increase” with expanded use of purified sewage water.

Often jokingly called “toilet-to-tap,” the technology has been employed on a large scale through the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District since 2008, and an expansion of that project is scheduled this year.

The Orange County districts have won international recognition for their use of technology at the same time some other areas, including sections of Los Angeles County, have balked at adding purified wastewater to their drinking supplies.

Orange County’s water and sanitation districts helped sponsor the National Resource Council study, along with others, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Science Foundation, National Water Research Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Water Research Foundation. Research for the report, however, was conducted by scientists independent of the sponsoring agencies, the resource council said.

The National Research Council is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

“With recent advances in technology and design, treating municipal wastewater and reusing it for drinking water, irrigation, industry, and other applications could significantly increase the nation’s total available water resources, particularly in coastal areas facing water shortages,” stated a news release.

The report said researchers “emphasized” the importance of carefully monitoring all procedures in the purification process to make sure the reclaimed water was of high quality.

It noted the process is less expensive than seawater desalination but more costly than conservation.

The Orange County Water District is planning a $142.7-million expansion of its groundwater replenishment system. The expansion will create an additional 30 million gallons per day of water for north and central Orange County.

When completed in 2014, the total system will produce enough water to serve 850,000 people for a year, according to the water district.

— TRACY WOOD

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