Apr 13, 2023 - Climate

Phoenix plans to recycle wastewater into drinking water by 2030

Illustration of three droplets of water, with different emojis on them.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The city of Phoenix plans to open a multibillion-dollar purification facility to recycle wastewater into drinking water by the end of the decade.

Reality check: We know the idea of drinking wastewater sounds a little icky.

  • But, but, but: Phoenix water services director Troy Hayes tells us the purification process will deliver water that's as clean — or cleaner — than what comes out of the tap today.

How it works: Cities across the country, including Phoenix, have cleaned wastewater to a level that's safe to release back into rivers for decades, Hayes says. The planned purification facility will take the treatment process one step further.

Why it matters: This will be a "drought resistant" source of water because we will always produce wastewater, Hayes says.

The latest: The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously last week to initiate the development of the water recycling plant, which will be a collaboration with other Valley cities.

What they're saying: "We understand the urgency, and we are working at full speed to deliver big solutions by the end of the decade," Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said at her State of the City address Wednesday.

Between the lines: The purification facility will be part of the 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant, jointly owned by Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale and Scottsdale.

  • All of those cities have expressed interest in contributing to the new facility, as have several others in the Valley, Hayes says.

What's next: Phoenix plans to spend the next year hammering out an agreement with all interested cities. After that, it will take about five to six years to build out the plant, Hayes says.

  • There is also likely federal and state drought contingency money the cities can tap into, he says.

Flashback: Scottsdale started recycling wastewater in 2019 but does not use it as drinking water yet. Instead, it's used to recharge the region's aquifers.

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