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Recycled and Purified Water


As Santa Clara County faces water supply challenges driven by reoccurring droughts, growth in population and businesses, and variabilities of imported water, the water district is investing in locally reliable, sustainable, and efficient water supplies such as recycled and purified water.

The water district’s goal is to develop recycled and purified water to provide for at least 10% of the total County water demands by 2025.  To achieve this, the water district plans to develop up to 24,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of additional highly purified water for potable reuse by the year 2025 and support continued production and expansion of recycled water. This amounts to 8 billion gallons a year of a new, drought-proof water supply, enough water to serve 74,000 households each year in Silicon Valley.

Long-term, the water district’s planning evaluates the development of up to 45,000 AFY of purified water for potable reuse.


To ensure an adequate and reliable supply of high-quality water, the water district has partnered with cities and water retailers in Santa Clara County to develop recycled and purified water supplies. In calendar year 2017, about five percent of the county’s total water use consisted of recycled water, and was used primarily for landscaping, agriculture and industrial activities.

The water district, in collaboration with local stakeholders, is developing a Countywide Water Reuse Master Plan, a collaborative strategy to integrate and expand recycled and purified water as a local, reliable, environmentally adaptive, drought-proof water supply. This master plan is estimated to be completed by December 2020.

There are four individual Recycled Water Systems (RWS) providing service in Santa Clara County. These systems receive recycled water from a single Producer (City of Sunnyvale, Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP), South Bay Water Recycling (SBWR), and South County Regional Wastewater Authority(SCRWA)).

Additional information pertaining to each of these systems:

City of Sunnyvale - RWS



South County RWS

  • 2015 South County Recycled Water Master Plan Update

What is recycled water?

Recycled water is wastewater that is cleaned through multiple levels of treatment.

Recycled water is clean, clear, and safe. This processed water is treated to strict standards set by the Division of Drinking Water and is rigorously monitored by local, state and federal agencies to ensure it continuously meets those standards.

All recycled water in Santa Clara County meets or exceeds standards set by the state for the various uses of recycled water.

Various uses of non-potable recycled water include irrigation, industrial, and agricultural uses.

Water has naturally been recycled through the earth’s water cycle for millions of years. During the past 200 or so years what has been termed “unplanned recycling” has occurred. This consists of upstream cities discharging their treated wastewater to a river or other waterway from which downstream cities obtain water for treatment to drinking water standards. For example, the Sacramento River receives treated wastewater and also serves as a water source for many towns and cities.

Benefits of recycled water:

  • Conserves drinking water supplies.
  • Provides a dependable, drought-proof, all-weather, and locally-controlled water supply.
  • Helps restore and preserve our saltwater and tidal habitats by reducing freshwater discharge to the Bay.
  • Is more economical and environmentally sustainable because it is less energy-intensive and has a lower carbon footprint than many other water supply sources 

Read more in "Watts to Water" (PDF)

What is purified water?

Purified water is wastewater that is cleaned through multiple levels of treatment including advanced treatment technologies such as microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultra violet light disinfection. Purified water is pure, clean, and safe. This purified water is treated to strict standards set by the Division of Drinking Water and is rigorously monitored by local, state and federal agencies to ensure it continuously meets those standards. All purified water in Santa Clara County meets or exceeds standards set by the state.

Currently, the water district produces up to eight million gallons per day of highly purified water at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center (SVAWPC).

This highly purified water is blended into existing recycled water provided by SBWR, which improves overall recycled water quality so that the water can be used for a wider variety of irrigation and industrial purposes. Longer-term, the district is investigating the possibility of using highly purified water for replenishment of groundwater basins, similar to the highly successful groundwater replenishment system that has been operated by the Orange County Water District for over 30 years.

Additional information on the development of purified water in Santa Clara County and the SVAWPC 

For more information, contact the Santa Clara Valley Water District via our online Access Valley Water system, or call 408-630-3533.