The Five Essentials Water Reusers Need to Know About SB 966

The Five Essentials Water Reusers Need to Know About SB 966

By Cindy Clark, Sr Water Director at Sustainable Silicon Valley

On a gorgeous autumn day in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of moderating a reuse panel for utilities and regulators at the William J Worthen Foundation’s Water Reuse Summit, in Fort Mason.  The panel featured two experts, Paula Kehoe of San Francisco Public Utility, and Brian Bernados of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Paula heads SFPUC’s Onsite Water Reuse Program, the first reuse program in the nation.  Brian is a water quality expert with the Division of Drinking Water at the State Water Resources Control Board.

The view from Fort Mason


The panelists presented and discussed Senator Scott Wiener’s bill, SB 966.   Surprisingly, California did not have consistent standards for installing and operating onsite recycling systems.   The bill requires that the SWRCB establish uniform, statewide, risk-based health and safety standards for onsite systems by December 2022.  Both Paula and Brian were on the nationwide Blue Ribbon Commission which developed the risk-based reuse framework.

The following are five takeaways from the discussion that will be useful for all water reusers:

1. The Risk-Based Framework

Local municipalities don’t have to wait for December 2022 to launch a program.  The SWRCB will base their standards on the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-Potable Water System’s Risk-Based Framework.  The SFPUC has already adopted it.

2. Other Inspirational Local Programs

Onsite reuse programs are not limited to San Francisco.  Utilities and regulators can also look to the County of Los Angeles for inspiration. Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas are also looking to move forward with risk-based reuse programs.

Another stunning view


3. Available Resources

A variety of resources are available to assist municipalities to launch local programs. Two important guides are The William J Worthen Foundation Water Reuse Practice Guide and The National Blue Ribbon Commission’s Blueprint for Onsite Water Systems.

4. Greywater and Rainwater Exclusions

SB966 only covers uses where the public might contact the treated water. The bill lists two exclusions. The first is untreated greywater systems used exclusively for subsurface irrigation. Untreated rainwater systems used for surface, subsurface and drip irrigation is also excluded.

5. The Tentative Rollout Plan

Brian shared the DDW’s Tentative Legislative Rollout Plan, which will include the creation of an expert panel and a request for stakeholder input.

Brian’s Presentation

I hope these takeaways from the summit are useful for those of you who are excited about the bill but don’t necessarily have the time to weed through the entire text of the legislation. However, if you would like more details the bill is available here. The experts’ presentations from the Summit can be found on the WJW Foundation website.