New agreement aims to save local drinking water, protect bay

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New agreement aims to save local drinking water, protect bay
Richmond shoreline (Photo credit: Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

An updated agreement between West County Wastewater District (WCWD) and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) aims to both preserve drinking water and keep almost all of the wastewater treated by WCWD out of San Francisco Bay.

Currently, WCWD sends most of its treated secondary wastewater to EBMUD as part of an existing agreement established in 1990 and first amended in 2007, according to the agency. The updated agreement—a second amendment to the original one—considerably increases the volume of discharged wastewater that can be transferred to EBMUD.

The amount of wastewater transferred between the two agencies will now increase from 7 to 8 million gallons per day to up to 12.5 million gallons per day, according to WCWD. In turn, the recycled water will continue to be distributed by EBMUD to local businesses for industrial reuse, i.e., boilers and cooling towers.

The revised agreement also encompasses updated water quality criteria and both agencies’ current operating conditions, per WCWD.

“The benefits this partnership will bring to our region are remarkable,” said WCWD General Manager Lisa Malek-Zadeh. “It gives us the opportunity to meet our goal to recycle all of our wastewater, continuing our vision of keeping our community and natural surroundings healthy and safe.”

The partnership adds to local successes in water reclamation. The Chevron Richmond Refinery happens to be the largest industrial user of reclaimed water in the Bay Area. That’s because the Refinery invested about $50 million in a partnership with the EBMUD to build the Richmond Advanced Recycled Expansion (RARE) treatment facility, which is located within the refinery property and produces up to 3.5 million gallons of recycled water per day for refinery operations. The project effectively doubled the refinery’s daily allowable capacity for reclaimed water use to more than 6 million gallons.

Per WCWD, utilizing recycled water for industrial and irrigation purposes helps protect the environment and preserves drinking water by offsetting the burden on the local water supply.

Additionally, WCWD’s collection and treatment procedure ensures viruses—like COVID-19, bacteria and other contaminants—do not survive in the sewage by adhering to state and federal regulations.

Read the WCWB resolution at www.wcwd.org. Learn more about EBMUD at www.ebmud.com.

CORRECTION: The article has been updated to correct and clarify the increase in the amount of wastewater that can be transferred between the two agencies.