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Best Practices for Developing Indirect Potable Reuse Projects

Project: 01-04
Type: Decision Making Tool
Year Released: 2004

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, California State Water Resources Control Board, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association Sub-Regional Operating Group, Los Angeles County Sanitation District, Water Research Foundation, American Water Works Association
Total Investment: $315,480 (Cash: $305,000, In-Kind: $10,480)

Principal Investigator: John Ruetten, Resource Trends, Inc.


Over the past ten years, water agencies have considered indirect potable reuse projects including groundwater recharge and reservoir augmentation through water reclamation. Although there are several successful indirect potable reuse projects in operation today, the public has opposed projects by negative branding. This branding of the projects creates negative perceptions and fear. As a result, some water agencies have abandoned indirect potable reuse projects, even after significant investment, in favor of more traditional nonpotable water reuse or other alternatives such as water transfers and desalination. Unsuccessful projects can be costly and can tarnish the reputation of water agencies. This affects trust and investment in critical water and environmental projects.

Goals and Objectives

The project examines how people perceive the value of indirect potable reuse and how the messages and management practices of the sponsoring utility affect these perceptions.

Research Approach

The research team examined several case studies of past indirect potable reuse projects to understand the key ideas of value related to the project, how communication of the project was managed, and how key people involved in the project perceived the benefits and risks.

Findings and Conclusions

This report provides water agencies with the 25 best practices determined to be the most critical in ensuring the acceptance, approval, and implementation of indirect potable reuse projects. This report outlines practices to ensure that well planned indirect potable reuse projects receive fair consideration in water supply decisions. The sponsoring utility must become confident about managing public perception issues. The best practices are also intended to maintain the reputation of the sponsoring agency and the industry, even if indirect potable reuse is not adopted in a given community.

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