Goals for a Recycled Water Program
in San Francisco
Friends of Lake Merced
July 14, 2005
Friends of Lake Merced has reviewed the current proposal for
development of recycled water in San Francisco, the only urban county
in California lacking such a program. The Public Utilities
Commission recently presented the current version of their Integrated
Water Resources Plan
. Included is a section on recycled water
that falls far short of acceptable performance in several ways:
The Recycled Water Market Assessment (Draft, 8/1/2003), prepared by RMC
Engineering for Cheryl Munoz, Manager of the PUC's own Recycled Water
Master Plan, estimated demand for recycled water at 12.6 million
gallons per day (mg/d) in 2003, 18.2 mg/d by 2020/2030. The
current proposal is to generate just 4.1 mg/d, less than 1/3 of the
2003 estimate, and just 22.5% of the 2020/2030 estimated demand.
The State of California’s goal for recycled water production in 2030 is
1.5 million acre-feet per year (maf/yr). That translates to
approximately 1,335 mg/d statewide, or 23% of available municipal
wastewater. The RMC report translates into 15% of dry-weather
wastewater throughput in the two San Francisco treatment plants in
2003, increasing to 21.7% in 2020/2030, a level by and large consistent
with statewide goals. The current proposal represents less than
5% of available resource, less than one-quarter of the State goal.
The State estimates that approximately 25% of new capacity built after
2002 will be applied to indirect potable reuse. Despite the
several additional advantages to this application in San Francisco, the
current proposal gives no consideration to this category of use.
The State estimates that building the statewide capacity will cost
in the range $9 - $11 billion. That translates to a range of $6.7
to $8.2 million per mg/d capacity. The Daly City plant, with 2.8
mg/d capacity, cost just $7.5 million, or just $2.7 million per mg/d
capacity, well under the projected statewide average. The
current proposal is for $124.9 million for 4.1 mg/d capacity, or
$30.5 million per mg/d capacity.
The State estimates operating costs at $300 per acre-ft of recycled
water. Daly City’s costs are a little higher than this average,
about $327 per acre-ft. Estimates in the current
proposal exceed this level, at $565 per acre-ft, by nearly twice
the statewide estimate.
Finally, the Daly City plant was approved in March 2002; just two years
later the plant became operational, providing recycled water to three
local area golf courses. The current PUC proposal states that
seven years will be required to construct the first facility in San
To summarize, this proposal from the PUC produces recycled water
at a rate less than one-fourth of the statewide goal, with an
investment four to five times the State's projected requirement, and
operating costs nearly twice the statewide estimates, and requires more
than three times the normal implementation period.
Friends of Lake Merced is a staunch advocate for developing an
effective recycling program. However, there are many in San
Francisco who feel that this is poor use of scarce capital funds.
Unfortunately, given the current proposal there is substantial basis
for this claim.
In order to overcome those concerns we encourage support for the
following action program:
1) Adoption of the original demand estimates for recycled water
as presented in the PUC’s Recycled Water Market Assessment (August 1,
2003), prepared by Hydroconsult and RMC, Inc. That indicates an
immediate demand of 12.6 mg/d, growing to 18.2 mg/d in 2020.
2) An additional 25% should be added to this demand estimate as a
target for application of recycled water in such indirect potable reuse
applications as maintenance of wetlands and aquifer injection.
3) Achieve this program within the estimated capital expenditure of
$124.9 million. This will result in a cost per mg/d capacity of
$5.4 million, consistent with statewide goals.
4) Reevaluate operating procedures to determine if operating costs can
be brought closer to the statewide estimates of $300 per acre/foot of
5) Achieve an operating recycled water facility with capacity of 12.6
mg/d within 3 years, expandable to 18.2 mg/d within the total
6) Install a demonstration recycled water facility, proposed for Golden
Gate Park at a cost not to exceed $500,000, within the current fiscal