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Advanced recycled water plant opens

New water purification center enhances recycled water quality,
demonstrates technology that could minimize future drought impacts

Contact: Marty Grimes
Office: 408-630-2881
Media line: 408-681-9265

July 18, 2014

In the midst of exceptional drought conditions, a new, locally controlled, drought-proof water source for Silicon Valley is now on-line. On July 18, 2014, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, in partnership with the cities of San José and Santa Clara, celebrated the grand opening of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center.

Located in northern San José off Zanker Road, the new purification center, owned and operated by Santa Clara Valley Water District, is already producing up to 8 million gallons a day of highly purified water. It is the largest facility of its kind in Northern California.

The $72 million project began construction in November of 2010. The new facility received $8.25 million from the federal American Recovery and Re-investment Act and $5.25 million from the California Department of Water Resources. The city of San José contributed $11 million toward the construction and provided a long-term lease for the land. The water district has funded the remainder of the project costs.

The new facility is using advanced technologies to purify water which has already undergone two levels of quality wastewater treatment, sourced from the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility (RWF). At the new purification center, the water goes through three additional high-tech processes—microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light—to produce water that is so pure, it is expected to match drinking water quality.

Instead of going to the bay, this water will be distributed via the regional “purple pipe” recycled water system, delivered by South Bay Water Recycling (SBWR), a program within the RWF, and used for industrial cooling towers, golf courses and car washes, throughout San José, Milpitas and Santa Clara. Approximately 750 customers of the South Bay Water Recycling program are now enjoying the enhanced recycled water, which has a lower level of total dissolved solids. This helps reduce chemical use and maintenance costs for industrial users, and is easier on some plant species because it reduces salt buildup.

Recycled water has been used successfully in Santa Clara County for decades. Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Gilroy all produce recycled water from their wastewater facilities. In Sunnyvale, the water district is helping to fund a pipeline that will bring recycled water to the new Apple campus. In Gilroy, the water district is building new pipelines to expand the system to serve more customers, including farmers, golf courses and parks. SBWR will provide recycled water to the new 49er Levi’s Stadium.

Today, recycled water makes up about 5 percent of the county’s total water demands. By 2025, the water district hopes to double that number. The new purification center is one important step to reaching that goal. Not only does it make recycled water more attractive to existing and potential customers, it is demonstrating proven technologies to produce high quality water that can be used for various potential uses, including expanding drinking water supplies.

Recycled water is a major component of the water district’s long-term water supply management plan. This plan also calls for aggressive water conservation savings. However, even with aggressive conservation savings, Santa Clara County will need the additional security of a locally controlled, drought-proof water supply. Along with conservation, advanced purified water will help meet all future growth—and associated water supply needs—within the county.

A grand opening ceremony was held today, July 18. Youth from the Alviso Youth Center recited a recycled water pledge. The San José Jazz High School All Stars Combo entertained almost 200 invited guests. A slate of speakers, including California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, addressed the crowd, and participated in a ceremonial watering of potted peach trees with purified water produced at the facility.

Tony Estremera, chair of the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors commented, “Growing water demand, uncertain imported water supplies, the present and recurring drought, regulatory restrictions and climate change require agencies like ours to both promote the wise use of water and find additional supplies to fill projected future water supply demands.”

"The new Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center will be a great resource for our community," said San José Mayor Chuck Reed. "I'd like to thank the leaders and staff of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the city of San José, and the city of Santa Clara for their successful collaboration on this project."

Jamie Matthews, mayor of Santa Clara remarked, “Last year, Santa Clara’s customers used 1.2 billion gallons of recycled water, which is over 15 percent of the water sold in the city. We are pleased to partner with the city of San José and the Santa Clara Valley Water District on the region’s recycled water infrastructure in order to provide high quality recycled water for today and to help meet future water needs.”

Deputy Adminstrative Officer Teresa Alvarado of the water district also commented that “all water is recycled. The water we drink today may have once quenched the thirst of dinosaurs, pyramid builders and even your upstream neighbors. This facility uses the latest technology to provide advanced purification.”

Following the program, guests were encouraged to take a guided tour of the new facility. Free public tours will soon be available. Interested individuals or groups can find tour information at

Background information:

Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction to Advanced Water Purification fact sheet

About Santa Clara Valley Water District:
The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County's 1.8 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams. We provide wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses in Santa Clara County.

About San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility and South Bay Water Recycling:
The San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility is the largest advanced wastewater treatment facility in the western United States. It is jointly owned by the cities of San José and Santa Clara with the San José Environmental Services Department serving as the operator and administrator. Operating around the clock, the Wastewater Facility protects Silicon Valley's community health, environment, and economy by treating an average of 110 million gallons of wastewater per day. It serves more than 1.4 million residents and 7,000 businesses in eight Silicon Valley cities.

The San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility cleans wastewater to the highest standards in the nation, producing effluent that is 99 percent clean. Since 1997, roughly 10 percent of this effluent has been further treated by South Bay Water Recycling (SBWR) and distributed to approximately 750 customers for use in landscape irrigation, cooling towers, industrial uses, and dual plumbed buildings.