More than a decade ago, Los Angeles built a small reclamation system in the eastern San Fernando Valley. The $55-million plant was closed in 2000 because of the public's distaste over the so-called toilet-to-tap process.
"Cheap political shots have closed some of these efforts," said Connor Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance, an environmental group based in Santa Monica. "All of Southern California should be doing these projects. They represent an efficient use of local resources. They are cost-effective and one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do."
In Orange County, water reclamation has not faced much opposition thanks to public awareness and the water district's extensive marketing campaign: plant tours, neighborhood pizza parties and hundreds of public meetings to explain the process.
The outreach effort has resulted in endorsements from scores of elected officials as well as civic, community and environmental organizations.
Public acceptance was also helped by the fact that since 1976 the county has been pumping about 15 million gallons of reclaimed sewer water a day into the groundwater basin to protect it from saltwater intrusion.