Recycled Water

One of BAWSCA’s statutory authorities is encouraging the use of recycled water. The agency fulfills that objective through participation in the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program.


In the early 1990s – following years of drought and facing limited water supplies for the future – Bay Area water agencies joined with state and federal agencies to study the feasibility of using high-quality recycled water to augment water supplies and help the Bay-Delta ecosystem. The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program (BARWRP) produced a Master Plan for regional water recycling.

The plan recognized the challenges facing water recycling, among them, technical feasibility, cost and public policy acceptance. The BARWRP Master Plan analyzed these issues, and demonstrated that large-scale implementation of recycled water would improve water supply reliability, water quality in the San Francisco Bay and Delta, and contribute to long-term restoration of the Bay-Delta environment. The plan presented methods to achieve 125,000 acre feet of water recycling in the Bay Area.

Several BAWSCA agencies have developed recycled water projects or participate in local recycled water programs. Others are actively pursuing recycled water programs. Below are some highlights.

Daly City, SF and Golf Courses Approve Landmark Water Agreement That Will Preserve Lake Merced

(Press Release)

Daly City, March 15, 2002 – A landmark water agreement between Daly City and San Francisco will create a new water recycling plant in Daly City to provide irrigation for three of the area’s leading golf courses and help to reverse the decline in Lake Merced’s water level.


The two cities, along with the Olympic Club, Lake Merced Golf Club and San Francisco Golf Club, approved a 50-year agreement that supports the construction of a $6 million water recycling plant by Daly City at its treatment facility at Lake Merced and John Daly Boulevards. Further, San Francisco and Daly City have agreed to a series of programs to reduce groundwater usage, increase aquifer recharge, and evaluate diversion of storm runoff into the Lake.

The historic regional resolution was a multi-agency collaboration between Daly City, the North San Mateo County Sanitation District, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the golf courses, and California Trout, Inc. The agreement calls for the golf courses to switch from groundwater use, in exchange for recycled water from the new Daly City plant.

“Lake Merced’s stakeholders have come to a mutually agreeable solution to overall usage of the groundwater aquifer,” said San Francisco Supervisor Tony Hall. “Without question, this is a rebirth for Lake Merced and victory for the environment.”

Daly City Vice Mayor Adrienne Tissier said, “This partnership will create a three-part program that benefits Lake Merced, the golf courses, and our communities. It is ecologically responsible and a fine example of good public policy in managing water resources.”

The City of Daly City, the NSMCSD and the golf courses have adopted the recycled water agreement earlier this month, and the SFPUC approved it last night. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to formally ratify the agreement within the next few weeks.

Local environmental and community organizations worked to accomplish the agreement. The Friends of Lake Merced, CalTrout and San Francisco Beautiful played supportive roles in making the pact a reality.


“The three clubs and two cities made a tremendous effort to get this deal done,” said Jerry Cadagan of the Committee to Save Lake Merced. “They have each made sacrifices for the overall benefit of the environment, the community and each other, and they are to be commended.”

Mark Bergstrom, Executive Director of California Trout, whose organization took action in January 2001 to initiate a cooperative resolution to restore Lake Merced, said, “The SFPUC, Daly City, and the three golf courses are to be commended for providing superb leadership to restore the beneficial uses of one of the City’s crown jewels, Lake Merced. This is a landmark agreement.”

“We are pleased to be part of one of the efforts being made by Daly City and San Francisco to restore and preserve Lake Merced,” said Olympic Club President Rich Guggenhime. Lake Merced Golf Club President Irving Chang said, “We are pleased to be a participant in the community effort to improve Lake Merced and its environment.”

The first step of the three-part program is to design methods to channel storm water into Lake Merced from its historic southern watershed in Daly City. This effort will redirect storm flows toward the lake. This SFPUC pilot program will begin immediately.

Next, work will begin on a new water recycling plant in Daly City to provide an alternative water supply for golf course irrigation. The water will be filtered and disinfected, making it safe for landscape uses. As part of the agreement, the golf courses have agreed to pay 50 cents per unit for the recycled water, which represents a substantial increase over their current cost of 21 cents per unit for groundwater.

The third step will be the implementation of an already-adopted pilot program that makes surplus SFPUC water supplies available to Daly City in wet years, allowing them to limit ground water pumping and increasing storage in the aquifer. This will allow increased use of groundwater during periods of water shortages, in essence creating a supplemental water supply to the Hetch Hetchy system’s capacity and to Daly City.

“Lake Merced is a wonderful resource for San Franciscans, and the SFPUC is committed to restoring the lake’s health so future generations can enjoy its beauty and fish in its waters,” said SFPUC General Manager Pat Martel.

Project Update: October 2003

Work on the tertiary recycled water project began in February 2003, and the city expects to deliver tertiary recycled water to the golf clubs at the end of March 2004. Work taking place includes flocculation basin, filter galleries, electrical and motor control centers, installation of new pipelines from the plant at the San Francisco, Lake Merced and Olympic Club golf courses, removal and reinstallation of the plant’s two water systems, installation of a new recycled water pump station, and installation of a gypsum pad and 30-foot silo.

South Bay Water Recycling

South Bay Water Recycling (SBWR) provides a reliable, sustainable and drought-proof supply of recycled water to the South Bay area. The water system includes pump stations, reservoirs and extensive pipelines serving San Jose, Santa Clara and Milpitas. Customers use recycled water to irrigate golf courses, parks, schools and agricultural lands, and for industrial processes and cooling towers.

A collaboration, SBWR includes San Jose, Santa Clara and Milpitas, five sanitation districts, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Water Resources, Department of Health Services, Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Clara County Health Department, and Santa Clara Valley Water District.


Water from tubs, toilets, and taps inside homes and offices travels through pipes to the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP). The “wastewater” is cleaned through various processes so that it ends up looking much like drinking water. These complex cleaning processes require careful maintenance and monitoring to make sure that the wastewater can be discharged safely into San Francisco Bay without harm to the ecosystem, and safely used for landscape irrigation, agricultural crops, and industrial applications around the South Bay. For more information on SBWR, visit

Using Recycled Water in Santa Clara

In 1989, the City of Santa Clara completed the first significant recycled water transmission and delivery system in the South Bay. The system used treated water from the jointly owned San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant to irrigate the Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club and for other non-potable applications. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board granted Santa Clara this early permission to utilize recycled water for many purposes, including landscape irrigation, street median landscaping, dust control for construction projects, sewer cleaning and street cleaning.

The city’s water recycling project was nationally recognized with the American City & County Award of Merit in water supply, and became the envy of the region as the South Bay began to experience several years of drought. Recycled water allowed the golf course to stay green and saved enough potable water for 1,400 homes a year. By 2001, more than 60 miles of recycled water pipelines were delivering recycled water for playing fields, cemeteries, industrial processing, dual-plumbing, agriculture and other non-drinking water purposes. By 2002, recycled water supplied more than 6 percent of the City total annual water needs and more than 12 percent of the summer water demand. For more information, visit

For more information on water recycling in the South Bay, visit the Santa Clara Valley Water District at

Redwood City’s Water Supply Challenge

September 2003 – Six years ago Redwood City began to exceed its assured water supply – we simply have more demand than supply, now and into the future. Redwood City is 100 percent reliant on one, limited supply of water – Hetch Hetchy – and that supply is at risk, right now. Our current water deficit is 1,000 acre-feet of water annually – that’s over 300 million gallons each year over our allocation, and aggressive water conservation alone will not solve the problem.


The first thing any community in this situation should do is to more wisely use the water we have, through conservation – and we’re doing that. But even in the best-case scenario, this can only solve up to half of our water deficit problem.

City staff has exhaustively studied the options and determined that the use of recycled water for outdoor irrigation and industrial use only, in conjunction with an active, aggressive conservation program, is the best way to resolve this problem. Recycled water is economically feasible, environmentally sound, free of contamination problems occurring in groundwater, achievable via Council authority, viable in the next 5-7 years, and is drought-proof forever.

Public health experts, pediatricians, specialists, leaders in the medical community, and virtually all of the credible scientific evidence available agree on the safety of children playing on fields irrigated with this water. This water is being safely and successfully used for irrigating parks, playgrounds, school fields, agriculture, wildlife habitat, recreation, landscaping, and industry throughout California and the Bay Area – there is not one reported case of anyone becoming ill from the safe and proper use of recycled water for irrigation and industrial use.

At its July 28, 2003 meeting, the City Council adopted resolutions finding that the use of recycled water for irrigation and industrial use would not have a detrimental affect on the environment, and is safe and environmentally responsible.


At a follow up meeting on August 11, 2003, the Council approved a project to deliver recycled water for non-potable uses that is both cost-effective and respectful of the concerns expressed by City residents. The Council also agreed to form a community-based recycled water task force to explore approaches that might prioritize implementation in such a way as to avoid using recycled water at schools and parks in order to acknowledge the safety concerns of some members of the community.

At their meeting on September 23, 2003, the Council selected the community members to serve on the recycled water task force. The Council noted that re-examining the issue of safety of recycled water is not within the purpose of the task force; the Council has already made that determination. It is anticipated that the task force will meet regularly through mid-February 2004, and submit its recommendation to the Council in mid-March 2004.

More detailed and updated information on Redwood City’s recycled water project is available on the web at On that site, you can also sign up for periodic e-mail updates on the status of the project.

Proposed North Coast County Water District Recycled Water Project Can Help Ensure a Reliable Supply of Water

August 2003 – The North Coast County Water District (NCCWD) has developed a viable program to provide recycled water for landscape irrigation and other uses. One of the initial targets for this project is Sharp Park Golf Course.


NCCWD provides water to approximately 40,000 residents of Pacifica on the San Mateo County coast. NCCWD has proposed a recycled water project that could provide recycled water from Pacifica’s wastewater treatment and recycling plant to Sharp Park Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco.

The greatest benefit of using recycled water to irrigate the golf course – instead of drinking water – is ensuring a more reliable supply of that drinking water to residents and businesses. Recycled water is ideal for landscape irrigation. Besides the golf course, schools, city parks, Caltrans and the City of San Francisco also would benefit from access to recycled water.

The Water Supply Master Plan adopted by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in April 2000 highlighted the need to develop additional water supplies within the SFPUC wholesale service area to reliably meet current and future water demands. The recycled water project proposed by NCCWD – which would own and control it – is an excellent opportunity to develop such additional supplies.

The project is starting to make progress. The Department of Water Resources has approved a one-year, $75,000 grant from its Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to NCCWD to complete a study phase. Water district officials have been meeting with officials from the SFPUC project, which will soon award a contract for environmental consulting related to using recycled water at Sharp Park Golf Course. BAWSCA strongly encourages the SFPUC to continue to work with NCCWD, Pacifica, San Francisco’s Parks and Recreation Department and BAWSCA to successfully implement this recycled water project. It is exactly this type of project – locally developed and cost effective – that ensures water supply reliability for communities that rely upon the San Francisco regional water system.

Left photo courtesy of the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center