The state already has rules in place for groundwater recharge —where wastewater goes in an aquifer and later comes out for drinking water.
Randy Barnard heads the recycled-water unit for the State Water Resources Control Board. He says both aquifers and surface reservoirs act as "environmental buffers," killing pathogens and diluting chemicals. Barnard says they also just help folks feel less icky about reusing wastewater.
“Studies have shown that projects that go through an environmental buffer have more favorable buy-in from communities, because the environmental buffer acts as a psychological break for people," Barnard says. "They don’t associate the water coming from a municipal wastewater source after it’s gone through the environment."
Barnard says the state could soon turn its attention to an approach with no such environmental buffer. He says California will remain thirsty for new ways to get water — not just because of the drought, but because the state’s population is expected to grow by several millions in coming decades.