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L.A.'s Potential 'Toilet To Tap' Water Recycling Project Would Be World's Largest

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The Metropolitan Water District is considering a $1 billion "toilet to tap" water treatment program that would hopefully reduce our reliance on imported water.

The Metropolitan Water District is looking at a new "toilet to tap" water treatment program for Los Angeles, Orange and possibly San Bernardino counties, CNBC reports. This method of treatment involves taking wastewater from toilets, showers, washing machines, dishwashers and other similar sources, and then recycling it for future use. While many have shunned this method, finding it unsanitary or gross, this water ends up cleaner than most tap water.

Mike Markus, OC Water District general manager, told CBS that the water from a similar Fountain Valley plant is "the cleanest water we have in the state of California." The Fountain Valley plant is currently the largest of its kind in the world, but would be surpassed by this new project.

The recycled water would first be used to refill groundwater basis, but could eventually become potable water. At first, the project could produce about 21.8 billion gallons of recycled water each year, but could eventually produce up to 54.7 gallons a year, according to the water agency.

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The project would evolve in phases, beginning with a demonstration project that treats wastewater from the L.A. County Sanitation District.

Orange County's "toilet to tap" wastewater treatment plant has been in operation since 2008. They prefer to call this method of water recycling "showers to flowers" versus the more controversial "toilet to tap."

Here, the wastewater is turned drinking water via three steps, according to the Guardian. First, water is filtered through a series of very small straws that get rid of bacteria. Then, the water undergoes reverse osmosis, which gets rids of chemicals, then it is exposed to UV light with hydrogen peroxide. The former shower and toilet water is now distilled water.

The water agency will vote on the pilot program next month. Ellen Hanak, director of the Public Policy Institute of California's Water Policy Center, told CNBC that water recycling isn't "completely drought-proof," and that we'll still need to conserve.