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You're Already Drinking Sewage!

Everyone who gets water from either of those projects has been drinking what’s derided as “toilet to tap” since the water started flowing.

May 05, 2015

Back in 2010 Families Protecting the Valley sent out over 600,000 flyers (Great Delta Toilet Bowl) to inform people around the Delta about the sewage/ammonia being allowed to flow into their water from the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.  The Sacramento Bee wrote about the problem in December, 2010:  "One of many pollutants in dispute is ammonia, a normal byproduct of human urine and feces that is not removed by Sacramento's wastewater treatment process. Sacramento is the largest source of ammonia in the Delta, where it is suspected of altering the food chain and killing fish."

In the end the Sanitation District was ordered to upgrade their system (Sewage Plant Upgrade Ordered).  That was at the end of 2010.  The District fought the order for 3 years until finally agreeing to do the upgrade, which they were granted 10-years to complete (Only 9 More Years to Dump Crap in the Delta!).  

In the Chico Enterprise-Record editorial below they speak the obvious when they say "Every sewer plant in the Sacramento Valley dumps its treated waste into the Sacramento or Feather River. It flows down to the delta and a share of it is sucked into the pumps feeding California’s State Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project. Everyone who gets water from either of those projects has been drinking what’s derided as “toilet to tap” since the water started flowing."  


Almost everyone in Southern California drinks this water, but they probably have no idea (Fresno and many Central Valley cities have other sources of water).  They would probably gag at the thought of drinking locally produced 'toilet to tap' that would actually be cleaner than the Delta water they're getting.  TheChico ER points out " the main problem hindering efforts to respond to the drought: Most of the people in California have no idea where their water comes from."  And to sum it all up, water districts are tying to make the sell on 'toilet to tap' but that’s a hard sell when you can just blame almond farmers instead. And in doing so prove that you not only don’t know where your water comes from, you also don’t know what it takes to put food on your table."  

"That’s the level of ignorance that’s going to make dealing with the drought a challenge."


The reduction of water sent to the Central Valley for the benefit of the Delta hasn't helped, yet the Sacramento Sanitation District still has until 2023 to clean up its act.  

Editorial: Ignorance is real enemy during drought

Chico Enterprise-Record


The mayors of San Jose and Santa Clara made a big show for the cameras Monday of drinking water from a Silicon Valley sewer plant as part of a push to get people there drinking the stuff.

“Delicious,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“Good stuff,” added Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews.

“Eww,” said a lot of people watching the spectacle, undoubtedly.

We always wonder why this is such a big deal, as millions of Californians have been drinking recycled sewer water for years.

Every sewer plant in the Sacramento Valley dumps its treated waste into the Sacramento or Feather River. It flows down to the delta and a share of it is sucked into the pumps feeding California’s State Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project. Everyone who gets water from either of those projects has been drinking what’s derided as “toilet to tap” since the water started flowing.

Indeed a few decades ago during the first push to require water meters statewide, a north state legislator (Stan Staham, if we recall correctly) stood up in the Capitol to tell his south state brethren they were being shortsighted for mandating conservation — such as not flushing the toilet after every use — in the north state. Every time someone in Chico flushed a toilet, he said, it put several more gallons of water in the Sacramento River.

Which is true.

It’s never seemed to generate much controversy. Maybe that’s because the wastewater discharge is diluted by the larger flow in the rivers. Maybe it’s because the flow from the sewer plants is actually cleaner than the river it’s being dumped into — the point the Silicon Valley mayors were making Monday.

But more likely it’s because of the main problem hindering efforts to respond to the drought: Most of the people in California have no idea where their water comes from.

It may come from hundreds of miles away — including Chico’s toilets — but that doesn’t register. Getting water to a distant faucet invariably causes environmental damage from start to finish, but that’s easy to ignore.

Turn the tap, water comes out, and the awareness ends right about there. What drought? Look, there’s plenty of water coming out. Why do I have cut back?

And that’s probably why expansion of a process that’s been in use for decades can become controversial. No one’s being asked to start drinking water from toilets. They already are. It’s cleaner than the bottled stuff you buy in the grocery store. People are just being asked to drink a little more of it rather than dumping it in the sea.

But that’s a hard sell when you can just blame almond farmers instead. And in doing so prove that you not only don’t know where your water comes from, you also don’t know what it takes to put food on your table.

That’s the level of ignorance that’s going to make dealing with the drought a challenge.

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