Recycled & Other Non-Potable Water

Facing historic drought, increased attention is turning to water reuse opportunities. The information below is provided to help customers in the Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP) service area understand the value of recycled water and other water reuse and capture opportunities. The RWQCP service area includes:  East Palo Alto Sanitary District, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Stanford.

What is Recycled Water?

Recycled water is highly treated wastewater that meets rigorous California Code of Regulations standards. Recycled water is clean and safe (for non-potable water usage) and can be used for irrigating food crops, including root crops, where water has direct contact with the plant, parks and playgrounds, school yards, residential and commercial landscaping, golf courses and more. Recycled water is generated at the RWQCP which is owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto for its six partner agencies.

How to Get Recycled Water

Can I get recycled water from the RWQCP for commercial or residential irrigation?
Currently, recycled water is available for pickup at the RWQCP overhead standpipe and Greer Park hydrant for permitted users only.  There is no charge for the water itself. Permits are required to obtain recycled water for irrigation and other permitted uses on commercial or residential properties. Permittees must be located within the service area of the RWQCP (2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto), which includes the City of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto Sanitary District, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, and Stanford University.  The permittees need to meet the requirements (listed in the Permit Application) for obtaining, using and distributing recycled water. 

What is the process to become a Permitted User?
Complete the Permit Application.   Submit to the RWQCP the completed Permit Application along with a $50 check or money order made payable to the "City of Palo Alto".  After the Permit Application is approved, staff of the Permitted User that will be handling recycled water will be provided training and training materials prior to the use of recycled water. Permitted users must submit a Recycled Water Pick-up Log Form to the RWQCP on the fifth of each month.  

Can I receive recycled water if I am not a Permitted User?
Yes!  Residents and businesses can hire a recycled water hauler (permitted user) to deliver recycled water.  Residents and businesses will be required to submit a Recycled Water End User Statement

Can I get recycled water piped to my house or business?
Learn how the RWQCP is working to expand the recycled water distribution system on the Recycled Water Pipeline and Strategic Plan page.

For more information about the RWQCP's Recycled Water Program:
Visit the Plant at 2501 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto 94303
Call: 650.329.2598

Future of Recycled Water

The City of Palo Alto, in collaboration with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the City of Mountain View, recently completed the Advanced Water Purification System Feasibility Study and the Preliminary Design Report to enhance current recycled water quality. This study included evaluations of greenhouse gas emissions, storage requirements, facility siting, concentrate treatment options, and preliminary design and construction cost estimates.  Recommendations from the Feasibility Study are currently being evaluated for future implementation. For more information read the Advanced Water Purification System Feasibility Study Factsheet.

What Are Other Non-Potable Sources I Can Use?

Stormwater Capture and Use
Stormwater is rain that flows over the ground into creeks and San Francisco Bay. Capturing stormwater can offset the need for potable water used for irrigation. Stormwater capture rebates from the City of Palo Alto help residents and businesses harvest rainwater using cisterns, rain barrels, green roofs and permeable pavement.

What is “graywater” and “laundry-to-landscape”?
Graywater is water captured from washing machines, bathtubs and showers that can be used for irrigation (graywater does not include water from kitchens or toilets). Laundry-to-landscape directly connects washing machine water to a landscaped area for irrigation. Visit theResidential Water Conservation page for more information on the City of Palo Alto's graywater rebates and classes.

Groundwater Pumping From Construction Sites

I see groundwater pumped from construction sites into storm drains. Is this okay?
Yes. During the construction of a basement or underground garage there is sometimes a shallow aquifer that must be temporarily pumped into storm drains to allow construction to move forward. This groundwater is not the same water that would be used for drinking water and it would otherwise still travel to creeks and San Francisco Bay as stormwater if it was not pumped there first. This water is important to the creek and Bay ecosystems.

Since this water can be used for dust control, vehicle washing and tree irrigation, it can be obtained from these sites via water trucks or vehicle mounted tanks. 

For more information on groundwater pumping on construction sites, contact Public Works Senior Engineer, Mike Nafziger 650.617.3103.

FAQ: Frequently asked questions

Note:  Typically, groundwater pumping does not occur during the rainy season (November through March).