|Wastewater collected within Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) is treated at the Michelson Water Reclamation Plant using advanced, or tertiary, treatment. The end result is a high quality water that earned IRWD the first unrestricted use permit issued in the state. This permit allows the reclaimed water to be used for virtually everything but drinking.
IRWD's philosophy is that water is too valuable to be used just once. Every gallon of reclaimed water used to irrigate crops or landscaping means a gallon of potable water that can be saved for potable uses. Reclaimed water now makes up 20 percent of IRWD's total water supply, reducing the need to import expensive water and helping to keep water rates low. Eighty percent of all business and community (parks, school grounds, etc.) landscaping in the District is irrigated with reclaimed water.
The reclaimed water is delivered through a completely separate distribution system that includes more than 245 miles of pipeline, eight storage reservoirs and 12 pump stations. The system provides reclaimed water to approximately 1,000 acres of fields and orchards planted with a variety of fruits, vegetables and nursery products. Reclaimed water is also used to irrigate landscapes including parks, schools, golf courses, streetscapes, and open space managed by many community associations. A few estate-sized residential lots also use this water for front and backyard irrigation. Many water features such as fountains and the lake at Mason Park are filled with reclaimed water.
In 1991, IRWD became the first water district in the nation to obtain health department permits for the interior use of reclaimed water from a community system. Reclaimed water is currently used for toilet flushing in IRWD's facilities as well as in several high rise office buildings constructed with dual piping systems. Potable, or drinking water demands in these buildings have dropped by as much as 75 percent due to the reclaimed water use.
In 1997 a local carpet manufacturer retrofitted carpet dyeing facilities to use reclaimed water year-round. The new process is as effective as earlier methods and is saving up to 500,000 gallons of potable water per day.