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Redwood City to revive recycled water program at one cent per gallon

The city hopes to begin serving customers this fall with new, automated station
Residents will soon be able to access recycled water for outdoor landscape watering.

Months after city officials declared a stage 2 water shortage emergency in Redwood City, residents will soon be able to access recycled water for outdoor landscape watering.

Recycled Water Superintendent Sindy Mulyono-Danre presented the city’s plan to install a self-service, automated water dispenser station during Tuesday’s Utilities Sub-Committee meeting. The city hopes to launch the program at the end of October or early November.

The program is only available to residential customers within the Redwood City water service area; proof of residency and water utility account is required. Recycled water can be used for both commercial and residential approved uses. This includes customers from outside Redwood City.

The program will provide a maximum of 300 gallons per visit, and three visits per day, according to Mulyono-Danre. Participants in the residential fill station program will be charged directly through their utility bill at a rate of one cent per gallon of water.

By using an automated station, the city will save on staffing overhead, which constituted the majority of the maintenance costs, according to Mulyono-Danre.

“Given the severe drought, staff is continuing to evaluate the efficacy of the program and reimagine ways to implement a recycled water program,” she said during the sub-committee meeting.

First implemented in 2015, the recycled water fill station program was suspended in 2017 “due to low participation,” according to the city, which added that “the cost of running the program outweighed the benefit” of potable water saved. Administrative and operational costs are participation-dependent but can total an estimated $60,000 to 65,000 per year, which would be funded primarily by the city’s Water Conservation Program and a small participants’ fee.

In a recent survey, which was completed by 53 residents, nearly 70% of participants expressed interest in accessing recycled water. Because of the low turnout, however, the city was initially unsure if it would revive the program.

The program represents just one piece of the city’s larger Recycled Water Program, which is primarily focused on expanding recycled water infrastructure and usage, according to the city.

The sub-committee members, including Vice Mayor Diana Reddy and Council members Diane Howard and Lissette Espinoza-Garnica, were supportive of reviving the recycled water station.

“There are members of the community who have been asking for it for an extremely long time. I think they grew weary of asking,” Howard said. “I am very very glad to see that we are doing this program.”

The city is procuring the automated fill station, which will be set up on the public works parking lot, according to Mulyono-Danre. It also plans to host a short training for residents about how to operate the automatic fill station and how the recycled water can be used.

Though the date has yet to be determined, she added that there would be a “big launch once we are ready.”

The stage 2 water shortage emergency, which was announced on January 10, calls on customers to limit their water usage to 45 gallons per person per day and to reduce outdoor irrigation by 35%. The new regulations come in the wake of worsening drought conditions statewide, according to Redwood City’s Director of Public Works Services Terence Kyaw.

There’s currently no estimate of how long the emergency will last or whether stricter limitations are to come.

“The last three years we’ve been receiving less and less snow in the Sierras, so gradually our reservoir is starting to deplete,” he said. “We are at about 70-80% of normal so we want to preserve water as much as possible.”


Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast.
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