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Science and Innovations

Arizona Lifts Ban on Drinking Recycled Water

CDC/Debora Cartagena

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has lifted a statewide ban on recycling wastewater for drinking. Flagstaff city officials say the new rule opens up more options for the future. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

In the past Arizona cities have only been allowed to treat wastewater for non-potable uses such as irrigation, or in some places like Scottsdale for recharging aquifers.

But under the new rule treatment plants now can directly deliver recycled water to customers.

Erin Young, water resources manager for the City of Flagstaff, says, "We need to use every drop of water to the best of our ability, to the best of our science and technology, and to the best of our regulations. So Flagstaff is looking into it... It’s something we may pilot at some point, but we’re not ready to jump in."

Young says the City is conducting a feasibility study to look at recycled wastewater, among other options for Flagstaff’s future supply. She says the ADEQ wrote the new rule because there are now effective technologies for purification.

Steve Camp, regulatory compliance manager for the City of Flagstaff, says, "The biggest challenge is getting the public acceptance of it. The technology’s out there. I think we’ve shown we can make potable water out of it, but it’s just a matter of the public acceptance."

Treatment facilities will have to apply for a permit and demonstrate their ability to purify water to high standards. The ADEQ is in the process of writing those rules.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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