Sep 25, 4:55 PM (ET)


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - With water shortages a possibility looming in the state's future, this city's starting to look at what it would take to turn sewage back into water that's pure enough to drink.

"This is a homegrown resource. It is the most reliable supply you can have," said Eric Rosenblum, division manager for San Jose's South Bay Water Recycling Project.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District and the city of San Jose are partnering in initial discussions of the potentially controversial idea.

If they can get the public to support the plan, millions of gallons of purified waste water could one day be pumped back into the aquifers the county now relies on for half of its drinking water. The other half comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta.

Officials noted that technology exists to treat sewage water using methods such as reverse osmosis, microfiltration and ultraviolet light, and render it pure enough to meet California drinking water standards. But they also explained the idea is still in its initial phase, and a final, detailed proposal isn't expected until next year.

Some water districts in the state have already moved ahead with similar projects.

The Orange County Water District will inaugurate in November a plant that will recycle up to 70 million gallons of waste water a day, then use it to recharge drinking water aquifers.

But in some areas where the process was proposed the plans were derided as sending water from "toilet to tap" and the public wasn't interested.

"What we don't want to end up with is what's happened in other areas where you have fear and politics cause a backlash," said Keith Whitman, water supply manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, promising to take a cautious approach.

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Information from: San Jose Mercury News, http://www.sjmercury.com