Xylem Inc. Survey Shows Support for Potable Water Reuse in California

August 3, 2017

Water shortages, population growth, and competition for water supplies are driving water providers to consider reusing water to augment drinking water sources, and potentially go directly into drinking water treatment and distribution systems. One of the historical barriers for potable reuse projects is the lack of public acceptance and poor public perception. Recent initiatives have been implemented by the water reuse community to increase awareness and improve understanding, with an ultimate goal of gaining public acceptance.

As part of Xylem’s commitment to the water reuse community, it partnered with the California WateReuse Association to conduct a public opinion survey of Californians in early 2016 to gauge acceptance of water reuse in general, and potable reuse specifically. Specific hypotheses that were tested in the research included the following:

  • Today, Californians are not familiar with the specific technologies and processes used to recycle water and the effectiveness of those technologies.
  • Once educated on the treatment technologies used to recycle water, Californians are more supportive of water reuse and more willing to use and drink recycled water.
  • Recycled water is seen as a short-term solution to drought management rather than a long-term solution to future water security.
  • The anticipation of the forecasted El Niño may be making Californians less supportive of or less concerned about water management practices.

The survey results showed substantial support for water reuse and acceptance of using recycled water for potable reuse purposes, regardless of drought conditions. The findings are outlined below:

  • Today, California residents are very supportive of using purified water for drinking and domestic purposes.
  • While they agree the drought makes them more supportive of water reuse, respondents do not see it as just a short-term fix. Most believe reused water should be used as a long-term solution, regardless of water shortage.
  • Knowledge of the water purification process is weak—less than half feel familiar with the technologies used to clean and purify water.
  • Education on the purification process is key to increasing support of purified water. After reading a statement on the purification process, virtually all California residents are more willing to use and drink purified water.
  • An El Niño heavy precipitation period would not stop support for purified water. While two-thirds of respondents believe that an El Niño is likely to relieve California’s water shortage, they are still concerned about water conservation and nearly all agree the state should continue to invest in purified water for drinking purposes. Overall, these results demonstrate that general support for using and expanding recycled water supplies exists, and that continued work on education, particularly the purification process, can increase support for incorporating recycled water into potable supplies.

Advanced technologies are a key part of the foundation to support the development of potable reuse projects. Xylem has provided leading solutions for potable reuse projects, including advanced oxidation, disinfection, and filtration. In California, these technologies are helping to combat the water shortages due to drought. For example, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is using ultraviolet (UV) light to produce recycled water for use by commercial and industrial customers, and the city of Los Angeles is incorporating UV light and chlorine in a cutting-edge advanced oxidation process to augment dwindling groundwater supplies. Xylem’s ozone and biologically active filtration processes are also being provided to produce high-quality water to supplement surface water supplies in San Diego.

To learn more about Xylem’s advanced treatment solutions for water reuse, visit our website here.

[Editor’s Note: This article is part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s case study report, From Scarcity to Abundance: Business Solutions for a Water Constrained World.]