As the drought takes hold in California, recycled water is winning both acceptance and financial support. The state has allocated $200 million in grants to jump-start recycled water efforts, and slashed interest rates on $800 million more in loans.

“The drought has given new impetus to recycling,” said Richard Mills of the State Department of Water Resources. "These days, recycled urban wastewater is being looked at more as a new water supply…It’s expected to be a significant source of landscaping and drinking water for many Californians in years to come.”

For now though, the main focus in many communities is on increasing the amount of recycled water used for landscaping, instead of using potable water on lawns. The Escondido City Council, in San Diego County, recently approved a $285 million plan to convert the city’s liquid sewage into irrigation water.

Meanwhile, El Dorado Hills, a city of 42,000 people and a state leader in water recycling, saw reclaimed wastewater as a means to build thousands of homes in a dry area. Developers there have now spent $10 million to upgrade treatment plants and install pipelines. Every week, the city now converts millions of gallons of wastewater into clean water, mainly for use in irrigating lawns.

“A year like this really shows that recycled water needs to be an increasing part of our supply, because it’s relatively drought-proof,” said John Woodling, executive director of the Sacramento-area Regional Water Authority.