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Lathrop may recycle wastewater
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LATHROP – All that Lathrop needs is the green light. 

Or the purple one, actually.

With municipalities across the state scrambling for ways to meet rising water demands of residents, Lathrop already has the infrastructure in place to move forward with a plan that would drastically reduce the amount of quality drinking water flowing from taps and down drains. 

The city’s reclaimed water – the non-solid end-result of the sewage treatment process – already meets California’s standards to be used for crop irrigation. It’ll take only a local governmental decision to allow for the purple, non-potable water piping that has been part of Lathrop’s construction requirements for the better part of the last decade to get their first charge. 

“I think that most agencies are looking at creative ways to meet water needs,” Lathrop City Engineer Glen Gebhardt said. “The water that we get as a result of our treatment process is of extremely high-quality, and we already have the purple pipe installed with all of new construction. 

“There are some complications with the regional board and there are long and drawn out reasons for that, but in time I think that we’ll all be using reclaimed water for much of our landscaping and irrigation and things other than drinking.”

Several years ago the City of Ripon found itself up against the wall when high-nitrate and arsenic levels in ground wells that provided a valuable portion of the city’s drinking water forced them off-line – the cost of the treatment process, at that time, not feasibly pursuable. 

Their solution? Utilize the tainted water in a city-wide, non-potable purple pipe system that allowed residents to do everything but drink the water –preserving that which did meet the tightening Federal standards. Currently Ripon is the only city in the county that doesn’t utilize a metered water system. 

And Lathrop is doing everything it can to put its money where its mouth is. 

The city has moved on to the second stage of a stepped program for water conservation – the first of voluntary reductions that Gebhardt said the city hopes will meet the State-mandated 20-percent reduction by 2020 – and has issued a set of guidelines to help residents move towards that goal. 

They’re also keeping a watchful eye on things like the water feature at Valverde Park which, for health and safety reasons, would only be able to utilize reclaimed water if it were treated through a chlorination process not unlike that of wastewater. The cost of installing such a system, Gebhardt said, wouldn’t be economical. 

“Saving water comes in all different forms – a reduction in landscaping and putting limitations on how much we actually irrigate,” he said. “But when it comes to reclaimed water, it’s very expensive to treat the water to the quality that we do. 

“It makes all the sense in the world to use it however we can.”