Emily Folk


Water infrastructure operates as a system. It incorporates the gathering, treatment and dispersion of water in various forms. As sustainability grows as a concern, wastewater is a primary focus of California’s water infrastructure. With more solutions for infrastructure, societies and the environment will benefit. California water reuse and recycling is a key place to begin.

Initial Plans

Three areas are driving the switch to a more resilient California water supply. First, California is a massive state, with different sized urban and rural areas throughout. With such vast differences, the water supply must meet all its citizens’ needs, no matter where they are.

The environment requires sustainability. Too much wastewater and pollution keep renewability low and water unusable. Though freshwater is relatively common, it’s only as renewable as humans push for. Since freshwater demand is increasing, communities must start taking action.

Last, the need for a new water infrastructure ties societal and environmental concerns together. With a better water supply, communities and ecosystems benefit.

These areas lead to the need for California’s more sustainable water management approach, including better wastewater treatment, conservation, efficiency, recycling and reuse, desalination and rainwater collection.

As a case study for the state’s advancements, Paso Robles, California, began its plans for a sustainable water system in 2014. Initially, the tertiary treatment facilities irrigated certain, limited public areas. From there, the city started branching out.


As Paso Robles expanded its methods and reach, it used state funding and grants to facilitate progress. Of its focuses, more water reuse and recyclability topped the list as crucial, necessary changes. An outdated infrastructure leads to issues like leaks, sediment buildup, erosion and significant waste. The first step to rebuilding the water system is to fix the infrastructure. Pipes need replacing, sewers need unclogging and treatment plants need complete overhauls.

The resilience of Paso Robles’ plans didn’t come from how high-tech or overly complex it is, but instead how the city went about recycling and reusing water. Through purification and testing, the Paso Robles Wastewater Treatment plant reached Title 22-level compliance per California’s regulations. These standards signify that the recycled water is clean enough for certain irrigation and industrial purposes.

California American Water is taking strides, as well. The treatment facility takes wastewater from residents, businesses, agriculture practices and rainwater runoff and purifies it. It then comes out as recycled, drinkable water. Orange County, similarly, recycles enough water to supply drinking water for one-third of its homes and businesses. These case studies show how water reuse is a primary solution for statewide water sustainability.

Future Considerations

As California continues to adopt the same policies and procedures from these facilities, it should keep some things in mind. First and foremost, people are the priority. Giving all residents access — in urban and rural areas — to clean water is a necessity. Doing so with recycled and reused water will aid the environment in the process.

Climate change is also a primary concern for the present and future. Harsh weather includes droughts and periods of heavy rainfall, which ultimately pollute and disrupt the water supply— not just for California, but for any location. Water infrastructure must account for climate change and the harsh weather it brings.

Further, California must focus on moving away from a single-facility structure. With more treatment plants, the state can provide cleaner water faster and more efficiently. Residents won’t have to rely on one plant to get the job done. Having a wide-spread infrastructure is the future.

Resilient California Water

These plans are beneficial and exciting. With the best water recycling and infrastructure plans, California water reuse becomes the norm. From there, the ideas will hopefully spread throughout the country and become a global standard.

Emily Folk covers topics in manufacturing and environmental technology. You can follow her blog, Conservation Folks, or her Twitter to get the latest updates.