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California Takes First Step Toward Building One of Nation's Largest Water Recycling Programs

California officials are taking steps toward building one of the nation's largest water recycling programs in Carson, just outside of Los Angeles.

The program, if completed, will recycle waste water and turn it into potable water for the region as a step to adapt to severe drought conditions.

Potable water is water that is safe enough to drink or use in food preparation.

In mid-November, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC) approved $15 million for a demonstration plant and additional studies into the program. The first wave of testing will take place in Carson.

Currently, wastewater filtered into the plant is funneled back into the Pacific Ocean. With the proposed new program, water would be purified, then injected back into local groundwater basins to be used for potable purposes.

This process is informally known as "toilet-to-tap," a long-resisted solution for additional water sources.

"The purified water produced by this program would represent a new drought-proof supply to help replenish the region's groundwater basins, which typically produce about a third of Southern California's overall water needs," MWDSC board Chairman Randy Record said.

The demonstration plant will turn over 1 million gallons of water per day. If the program develops to full-scale operation, it could produce more than 54 billion gallons of water a year, enough to fill more than 82,000 olympic-sized swimming pools.

As the historic drought continues to plague the state, attitudes have shifted toward the process.

Roughly 20 miles south of the Carson plant, more than 173 billion gallons of former wastewater has been transformed into high-quality water since 2008.

The Orange County Water District has used a groundwater replenishment system to produce a "drought-proof and reliable supply of high-quality water in an environmentally sensitive and economical manner," according to their website.

The water is treated by a purification process of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide to produce water that exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards.

The partnership between the Sanitation District and MWDSC could lead to a brand new purification plant and 30 miles of distribution pipelines to groundwater basins in Los Angeles and Orange counties.