Jan 03 2023Share

Recycled Water: A safe and sustainable water supply option

By AMWUA Staff

Water will remain a key focus and priority in 2023 for the AMWUA cities, decision-makers, and the public. As the Colorado River situation worsens, we know we will have significantly less water from the River. This has raised questions and discussions about how to replace that supply, which in turn has brought a lot of attention to proposed desalination plants at the Sea of Cortez and increasing Bartlett Dam on the Verde River. However, more of the spotlight needs to be placed on Direct Potable Reuse as both a near-term and a long-term tool for addressing a future with less Colorado River water. 

By definition, Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) is recycled water that has been treated with advanced technology making it safe for drinking. DPR is already permissible in Arizona, and the technology exists and is being used around the world. Knowing the key role that supply can play, AMWUA and Valley Partnership worked together during this last legislative session to secure funding for ADEQ to complete the regulatory framework for DPR by the end of 2024. Now, several cities are already investigating how to upgrade their water systems accordingly.

When it comes to water, recycling is part of the natural water process known as the hydrologic cycle. Human-generated water recycling, also known as water reclamation or potable reuse, is an integral part of our water portfolio in the Valley. Arizona has a long history of being a good steward of its reclaimed water, from using it to water golf courses and parks to using it to help cool the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. Yet, water providers need to have options to maximize this water to meet all demands, especially if we have reduced availability of a major supply – the Colorado River. 

The good news is that DPR technology is already used in places like Texas, Singapore, and Namibia and will become essential to communities facing scarce water supplies. Scottsdale Water is the first provider in Arizona to be permitted for direct potable reuse. While Scottsdale does not deliver this water to its customers, its research into this technology demonstrates how DPR is a viable option as water supplies become sparser.

Last year, the Governor and State legislature made a significant investment of $1.4 billion in Arizona’s water future. They expanded the authority of the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority to include the oversight of new funds to facilitate augmentation, conservation, and water recycling projects to address the water needs of communities throughout Arizona. 

DPR projects should be a priority for the new WIFA to invest in. Ultimately, utilizing our recycled water to its full potential is a critical water augmentation strategy – it provides a safe, locally controlled, drought-proof water supply that can be available far sooner than other water importation options.

Benefits of Direct Potable Reuse (DPR):

  • Safe, reliable water supply
    • Potable reuse uses proven technology to purify recycled water to provide a safe water source. Multiple treatment methods separate pollutants, producing extremely clean water.
  • Sustainable water supply option
    • Potable reuse provides a sustainable and cost-competitive water supply option using less energy than many other options.
  • Locally controlled, drought-proof water supply
    • Potable reuse is a drought-proof water supply. It can help ensure safe, sustainable water now and into the future.
  • Independent of weather variability
    • Potable reuse is part of a diversified water portfolio independent of climate or weather.

Maximizing water recycling is at the top of the list for water managers to bolster our water supplies with an optimal near-term solution. It is one way our communities can be sustainable now and into the future.

For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide their communities with assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies. For more water information, visit

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