San Francisco, CA— The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and State Senator Scott Wiener are celebrating the passage of Senate Bill 966, which will expand water recycling efforts by developing statewide quality standards for onsite non-potable water systems. The bill, which was approved without a single “no” vote by the State Senate and Assembly, was signed into law on Friday, September 28, by Governor Jerry Brown.
“San Francisco knows the importance of diversifying our water portfolio and this legislation will allow other communities to follow our lead in that regard,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “To ensure reliability—particularly in the age of climate change—we need to use every water resource available. We commend Senator Wiener for taking a leadership role on this critical issue.”
The bill, authored by Senator Wiener and sponsored by the SFPUC, will establish consistent, risk-based water quality standards for onsite non-potable systems that align with the most advanced and protective public health standards. The bill also helps local communities across the state establish consistent oversight and management programs for these onsite water systems.
“California has a long-term, structural water shortage, and we haven’t done enough to address it,” said State Senator Wiener. “Water recycling must be a central part of the solution, yet California is far behind in implementing large-scale water reuse programs. Due to a lack of state standards on how to permit on-site water reuse systems, most cities don’t have on-site recycling programs. SB 966 gives cities the tools they need to put water recycling programs in place consistent with health and safety standards. It also provides innovative water reuse businesses clear standards for designing new technologies. California must take bold steps today to prepare for tomorrow’s drought, and I’m proud that today we took one of these steps.”
Onsite non-potable water systems can save more than 50 percent of potable water needed in a typical building. These systems collect and treat water onsite in a manner that is protective of public health, and offer another tool to use water more efficiently and to diversify San Francisco’s water supply portfolio. In the age of climate change and increased stress on water supplies, responsible water conservation programs are more important than ever.
The SFPUC is committed to pursuing responsible water conservation and water reuse programs. In 2012, San Francisco became the first municipality in the country to adopt legislation allowing buildings to collect, treat and use alternate water sources for non-potable demands, such as toilet flushing, cooling and irrigation. Subsequently, San Francisco became the first municipality to require all new development projects with more than 250,000 square feet to install and operate onsite non-potable water systems.
The City pioneered this program to oversee and permit onsite non-potable water systems in the absence of a clear regulatory pathway set forth by the state. With the passage of Senate Bill 966, communities across California will have more guidance and structure to establish similar oversight programs.
At the SFPUC’s headquarters in downtown San Francisco, a Living Machine
was installed to treat all the building’s wastewater onsite and reuse it for toilet and urinal flushing. The Living Machine has been able to reduce the building’s potable water use by 60 percent.
“It’s clear that onsite non-potable water systems are just one of the tools that can be used to promote water use efficiency,” said SFPUC Water Resources Director Paula Kehoe. “What is needed today are risk-based water quality standards and oversight and management programs to ensure these systems are protective of public health. The SFPUC sponsored SB 966 because it does just that. The bill establishes consistent water quality standards and provides communities with a framework for developing local oversight and management programs.”