How Do You Know You Have Recycled Water? Check for Purple Pipes

If you’ve noticed purple pipes on the Peninsula, you’ve seen the delivery system for recycled water. As the need to conserve our supply of potable water increases, you’ll see more and more of this colorful green solution.

Part two of a three-part series

With demand for water on the Peninsula rising and supply becoming less dependable, Peninsula cities and their water agencies are taking steps to conserve and diversify. Most of these involve getting customers—homeowners, landlords, local businesses—to embrace conservation.

Getting everyone on the Peninsula to do their part is a big task, with success difficult to guarantee. So some agencies also take steps on their own, such as creating a water recycling system. The initial investment is significant, but the rewards include greater self-sufficiency, disaster preparedness and saving millions of gallons of water from being wasted.

Local water agencies on the Peninsula work hard to bring potable water to our homes, ready for drinking, washing and watering. So sending it all down the pipes to local water treatment plants, just to have them clean it up enough to discharge it into the Bay or Pacific Ocean, is a terrible waste.

Capturing that once-used water and recycling it requires new infrastructure. If you’ve noticed purple pipes in your local travels, you’ve seen the delivery system. Lavender pipes, hydrants and sprinklers keep drinking water and recycled water separate and let everyone easily identify which is which.

Local Examples of Recycled Water Put to Good Use

  • Daly City’s North San Mateo County Sanitation District supplies irrigation water to three local golf courses, as well as median landscaping and playing fields.
  • The cities of South San Francisco and San Bruno, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and California Water Service Company plan to jointly produce and distribute recycled water through the South San Francisco/San Bruno Water Quality Control Plant. Two million gallons a day will irrigate more than 300 acres of landscaping.
  • In Pacifica, the North Coast County Water District’s water recycling program provides treated water from the Calera Creek Water Recycling Plant to a constructed wetland. Pipes have been laid to serve Sharp Park Golf Course, Highway 1 landscaping and playfield irrigation needs.
  • Redwood City has the most comprehensive program on the Peninsula. It started with an ordinance in 2008 requiring most large commercial properties and housing complexes in its service area to use recycled water. An extensive pipe system from South Bayside System Authority now supplies water for landscape irrigation, cooling systems, industrial processes and even some toilet flushing.

Next in this series: Water conservation at home


A mild-mannered civil servant by day, Mary Bell Austin uses her time away from her environmental work for, well, environmental play. Her adventures in healthy eating and her explorations into the wider green world can be found at Bite-size Green. Her column appears biweekly on Saturdays. 

Sandy B January 21, 2012 at 09:08 PM
So that stink bomb of a plant in Daly City is just for golf courses?
Basha Osinski January 21, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I've noticed that the new development along Bair Island Road, the One Marina project, is already using water from the purple pipe systems to irrigate their landscapes. And the landscapes include great stormwater recharge features like bioswales in the median strips.
Pretty Asian... January 23, 2012 at 08:57 PM
be it a recycled water or not, good thing we have a filter in the house...


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »