Record-Breaking Water Recycling

Feb. 15, 2018

Guinness World Records exist for a number of outrageous feats. There’s the largest gathering of Elvis impersonators, the farthest tightrope walk in high heels, and the biggest gum bubble ever blown. But this week, there may be a new record set for a highly practical accomplishment: the most wastewater recycled to drinking water within a 24-hour period.

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD), collaborators in Southern California’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), will attempt to set a new recycling record. The challenge is an effort to commemorate 10 years of the GWRS’s water reuse technology and to bring awareness to the additional water security it offers.

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“For one 24-hour period, we hope the world’s focus will be on the future of water, the accomplishments of advanced water purification, and the potential for global water reliability, ” OCWD President Denis Bilodeau said in a press release. “I’ m proud that our agencies had the vision to implement this local solution more than a decade ago that has helped us better weather drought, increase local water reliability, and stands as a model for world- wide use.”

The GWRS system takes treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifies it using a three-step advanced treatment process consisting of microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide.

The process produces 100 million gallons of high-quality water per day that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards. The facility hopes to set the precedent, through normal operation, for the amount of recycled water produced.

“In attempting this world record, we don’t operate our facility any differently from every day. It is our mission to provide as much safe, quality water as we can at the most efficient cost for the citizens in our service area,” said OCWD Director of Water Production Mehul Patel. Maintenance and other testing projects have been postponed to ensure that the GWRS is in optimal condition to produce the most water possible.

“There are 63 people in the water production department and they all have a hand in the successful operation of the plant,” said OCWD General Manager Mike Markus. “We also work closely with our project partners at OCSD to ensure optimal flow rates. Although we have definitely discussed the plan to meet or exceed our water production capacity for the 24-hour attempt, I would say our team is always going above and beyond to produce the most amount of water possible to provide a high-quality, reliable water supply to the 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County that OCWD serves.”

The official 24-hour period begins at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, and ends on Friday, Feb. 16, after which officials will tabulate and verify the results.

Work is under way to expand the facility’s capacity to 130 million gallons. And in the coming years, it promises to forge new records as a leader in recycled water production.
About the Author

Laura Sanchez

Laura Sanchez is the editor of Distributed Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.