Recycled Water


Recycled Water is defined in the California Water Code as: "water which, as a result of treatment of waste, is suitable for a direct beneficial use or a controlled use that would not otherwise occur and is therefore considered a valuable resource." Recycled water can be used for crop and landscape irrigation, industrial uses such as cooling towers, and groundwater augmentation when it is subjected to advanced treatment technologies. 

On November 23, 2010 the CPUC initiated a Rulemaking to determine a comprehensive policy framework for Recycled Water for Class A and B investor owned water utilities and comparably-sized sewer utilities. The Rulemaking indicated it would address:

  • Water use efficiency
  • Local water supply development and prioritization
  • Water supply reliability
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reductions
  • Recycled water rate design

The CPUC held Workshops in 2012 to discuss these issues across stakeholders. In February 2013, the CPUC issued a Recycled Water Workshop Report seeking stakeholder input.  On August 28, 2014, the CPUC issued a Final Decision adopting a comprehensive policy framework on Recycled Water for the production, distribution, and use of treated municipal water, requiring: 

  • Minimum criteria for both applications that seek approval of larger recycled water projects and advice letters that seek smaller sized Recycled Water projects.
  • A cost-benefit analyses for Recycled Water projects to clearly demonstrate benefits to customers in the service area to be served by the Recycled Water project, as well as  benefits to the region and the state in order to support the state’s goals of encouraging integrated regional water management and planning.

Recycled Water projects will be assessed based on the CPUC’s required criteria in each utility’s general rate cases where the will report: 

  • The amount of Recycled Water being sold annually by treatment type
  • The wholesale and retail prices
  • The identity of the Recycled Water supplier
  • Cost allocation and sharing
  • Energy costs and savings

The utilities must also seek opportunities to secure lower-cost public funding or partner agencies to cover or contribute to the cost of Recycled Water projects.


ORA Position 

ORA advocates for cost-effective Recycled Water development that contributes toward water supply reliability, reductions on imported water, and reduced energy impacts. ORA supports the CPUC’s August 2014 Decision because it provides clear rules and a framework for encouraging Recycled Water projects. The Decision adopted many of ORA’s recommendations, including requiring:

  • Cost-benefit analyses for Recycled Water projects to clearly show that benefits exceed costs in projects funded by ratepayers.
  • Benefits are specific to customers in the service area who fund the Recycled Water projects.    

See ORA’s July 16, 2014 Opening Comments on the CPUC’s Proposed Decision. 

See ORA’s July 21, 2014 Reply Comments on the CPUC’s Proposed Decision.


Proceeding Status

See the proceeding docket.


Other Resources

CPUC Recycled Water Workshops 

USEPA Water Recycling and Reuse Site 

State Water Resources Control Board Water Recycling Policy 

California Department of Public Health Recycled Water Regulations and Guidance