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Recycled Water Runs Through it: The Purple Pipe System

July 25, 2019
Purple pipes

Have you ever noticed small, purple signs in your community, on your campus, or around your workplace? If you have ever stopped to read one, you may have noticed that they all state the same thing – “irrigated with recycled water.” So, what is recycled water? And what is the connection between recycled and purified water?

The first thing to keep in mind is that all water is recycled! The Earth has naturally recycled water for millions of years. In fact, the water we drink today is the same water dinosaurs drank millions of years ago. We recycle bottles, metals, paper, and plastic, so why wouldn’t we also recycle water? We do!

Recycled water has been treated to remove contaminants, which allows it to be used for irrigation, agriculture, and industrial purposes. On the other hand, advanced purified water, a form of recycled water, is secondary treated wastewater that has been further purified using advanced purification technologies. After the water goes through this special purification process, the end product is nearly distilled water that meets and even exceeds primary and secondary drinking water standards, meaning that it’s safe to drink. In the future, our goal is to use advanced purified water to supplement our drinking water supply through the replenishment of our groundwater basins or by sending it to a regular drinking water treatment plant. Valley Water currently blends advanced purified water, which is produced at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center (SVAWPC), with recycled water produced at the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant to enhance its quality for recycled water purposes.

Advanced purified water has gone through an advanced, multi-stage treatment process – microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultra violet light disinfection – at the SVAWPC. The blended, enhanced recycled water is used for irrigation, agriculture, and industrial purposes, which helps to reduce the demand for drinking water that would have otherwise been used. Currently, recycled water is distributed through the countywide purple pipe system to recycled water customers. Every time you spot a purple pipe, you can be sure recycled water is flowing through it! Similarly, when you see a purple recycled water sign, it shows that recycled water is used at that location for a specific purpose.

Using recycled water provides many benefits for residents and visitors of Santa Clara County, such as reducing the need for imported water, which helps the environment and decreases water waste. Using recycled water means that we will use less water from our rivers, streams, and groundwater basins. We can maintain healthy ecosystems as well as maintain a reliable, locally controlled water supply that is not reliant on the Sierra snowpack. This helps address the severity of droughts and the impacts of climate change by providing solutions that are sustainable, now and into the future.

For more information on recycled water or to book a tour of the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center, visit

I Spy… The Purple Pipe Contest Instructions
When you spot a purple pipe or recycled water sign in your community, snap a photo of yourself with it to enter our contest to win a free pair of Great America tickets AND two tickets to the San Jose Giants on Valley Water Night! Then upload the photo to your Facebook or Instagram page, like and follow Valley Water on Facebook, and tag us using our hashtags #purplepipes #valleywater #purewater4u #svawpc #purifiedwater.

Where can you find purple pipes or recycled water signs? Check out these locations!

  • Williams St. Park: E William St & S 16th St, San Jose
  • San Jose State University: 1 Washington Sq, San Jose
  •  Roosevelt Park: 32 N 20th St, San Jose
  • Kelly Park: 1300 Senter Rd, San Jose
  • Oakhill Memorial Park: 300 Curtner Ave, San Jose
  • Los Lagos Golf Course: 2995 Tuers Rd, San Jose
  • Spartan Stadium: 1257 S 10th St, San Jose
  • Mission College: 3000 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara
  • Avaya Stadium: 1145 Coleman Ave, San Jose

Valley Water 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 2 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 285 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 294 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.