California Drought: Hydrogen Peroxide and UV Light Critical Players in California’s Expanding Water Recycling Plants

The new waste water recycling process uses H2O2 and UV light for the final stage of disinfection rather than chlorination which is shown in the illustration as the old waste water treatment method.

New Waste Water Recycling Methods Implemented in the Santa Clara Waste Water Recycling Plant in 2014 Image Courtesty of San Jose Mercury News.

The California drought is not a new story for anyone paying attention, but its increased severity, as well as recent steps by public officials to actively curb water use by State residents has made it more visible to the rest of the nation, and the world.

California Drought Means Limited Water Supply

While there are heated battles raging over the use of California’s dwindling water supplies for such things as hydraulic fracking and by corporate users like Nestle’, who purportedly bottle up to 80 million gallons of California’s precious water every year just from one aquafer, the push to expand and improve recycling of waste water in California is a less well known story.

California has some of the largest and most extensive water recycling facilities in the world, with a new 8 million gallon capacity plant going into operation in Santa Clara county only last year. While the water is not yet taken directly into the residential water supply, the potential of such water use in the future is real. To date, two municipalities in Texas are the only sites where recycled water is fed directly to homes.

H2O2 and New Waste Water Treatment Technologies

These plants use a special series of steps to take waste water and deliver clean potable water at the outflow end of their process. A practice, it would seem, which should really be used anywhere waste water is processed, rather than the old fashioned method of simply porting it off to the closest open water way or ocean.

The three steps used to clean the water are micro filtration, reverse osmosis filtering and finally ultra violet light and hydrogen peroxide disinfection.

The use of ultra violet light and either hydrogen peroxide or an ozone treatment has become popular for use in swimming pool and hot tub filtration as people have sought to move away from chlorinated pools and spas, and there are now several commercially available pool and spa disinfection systems using these methods.

Rural Drinking Water Systems

Variants of the waste water disinfaction system have also been used as a final disinfection stage in spring fed water systems in rural homes and communities where there was danger of water borne illness and disease.

Essentially, the hydrogen peroxide and UV light work together to accomplish disinfection in a series of interactions. The hydrogen peroxide is injected into the waste water stream causing oxidation, and the oxidized wastewater stream is passed through channels passing through or under UV lights which destroy the VOCs in the wastewater stream. VOCs are either destroyed in the oxidation UV phase or with additional carbon absorption before the water is discharged.

Cleaning Up Toxic Superfund Sites

These systems can also be used for the cleanup of toxic waste ‘superfund’ sites and the list of contaminants able to be removed is very impressive, and goes well beyond simple residential waster water treatment requiresments to include such toxic contaminants as benzine, vinyl chloride, MBTE, and even polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

So, while it is certainly far from ‘sexy’ to think of drinnking recycled waste water; the public acceptance of the idea has risen from near zero to over 50 percent in the State of California in the last few years as drought conditions have worsened. And, with hydrogen peroxide as part of the path to cleaner water, it may soon be possible for waste water treatment plants in California to be using recycled water for municipal water supply uses. At present, recycled waste water in California is used primarily for industrial and other non residential uses.

Even without returning the water to the residential water table at present, this water plays a critical part is supplying clean fresh water needs in California.


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