West Berkeley parks and large businesses may soon be required to use recycled water in an attempt to conserve northern California’s water supply, which is becoming increasingly strained by rapid population growth.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Shirley Dean will ask her colleagues to support a recommendation asking staff to look at establishing an ordinance requiring the use of recycled water where possible in new construction and open space, including parks.
Dean said the state’s population is expected to significantly increase by 2020 and that will put a huge strain on the existing water supply, unless something is done.
“This is really serious stuff,” she said. “The state’s population is growing and the water supply is not. At some point we’re going to get hit and hit hard with a water shortage.”
Grey water comes from used home, garden and industry water. The recycled water is taken from sewage treatment plants and put through three phases of treatment and then sanitized before being made available for reuse, according to Laura Johnson, the supervisor of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District’s Office of Water Recycling.
Recycled water is for nonpotable uses only, such as landscaping and industrial water cooling systems. It is not considered safe to drink.
The ordinance will be designed to take advantage of EBMUD’s $20 million program to create a recycled water infrastructure. The project will supply large water users with recycled water in Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and Albany.
The goal is to increase EBMUD’s recycled water use from 14.5 million gallons per day to 24 million gallons per day by 2020, thereby creating an annual savings of 9 billion gallons of high quality water - or drinking water - per year. That’s enough to supply 83,000 households, according to Johnson.
A recycled water mainline, known as a “purple pipe,” has already been put in place along Interstate 80 from EBMUD’s water recycling plant in Oakland to the Albany border. According to Johnson, the system will be ready to start supplying recycled water within the next two years.
Until the purple pipe infrastructure expands, only businesses and parks within a few blocks of the pipe will be able to access the recycled water supply.
If Berkeley approves the ordinance, at least three city parks, Aquatic Park, Harrison Field and the Berkeley Marina, including Cesar Chavez Park, will begin using recycled water for landscaping purposes.
“We’re really excited about the possibility of using recycled water,” said Parks and Waterfront Director Lisa Caronna. “We hope to get more parks, and other areas like the median on University Avenue, hooked up as well.”
Caronna said there are some concerns about using the recycled water in the three west Berkeley parks because they are all close to natural water sources.
“We asked EBMUD a lot of questions because all those parks are adjacent to a creek, an estuary and the Bay,” Caronna said.
She added that if there are environmental concerns, the Parks and Waterfront Department will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the waterways.
Dean said no businesses have been identified in west Berkeley that may be affected by the ordinance.
Oakland is a step ahead of Berkeley – under construction is the first high-rise in the country to be outfitted with a dual water supply. All of the toilets in the 20-story City Center Building will be flushed by recycled water.