California’s Water Recycling Criteria: Title 22

July 6, 2019
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California is a state we should all be talking about when it comes to water consumption, water restrictions, and droughts. They’ve implemented a man-made drought that will begin in 2022 thanks to a bill that was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in May 2018. 2022 is the year in which “guidelines for efficient water use” must be in place to comply with several bills.


This man-made drought restricts per-person water usage to 55 gallons per day until 2025, 52.5 gallons per day from 2025 until 2030, and 50 gallons from 2030 and on. The restrictions don’t just affect residents, but water suppliers as well, who will receive incentives for recycling water. Annual water budgets and drought preparations must be in place by urban and agricultural water suppliers. Other regulations may be put into place that control when lawns can be watered—among other things. Fines for water violations, like serving drinking water in restaurants when it’s not requested, washing towels and linens daily at hotels without offering guests the chance to reuse them, and operating decorative fountains that don’t reuse water, are still being considered. These water issues are the product of poor public policy, with no credible water market in the state. 90% of water flow is controlled by the government.


Title 22 introduced strict water reuse standards in order to prepare for a future that is prone to drought and increasing water scarcity. It’s a section of the California Code of Regulations that names the strict environmental health regulations. This is an important part of the state’s long-term water goals. The goal is to increase recycled water use by a million-acre feet annually by 2020, and by at least 2 million acre-feet annually by 2030. It aims to increase stormwater use as well.


Title 22 of California’s Water Recycling Criteria also provides guidelines for how treated and recycled water should be discharged and used. According to the Water Education Foundation, standards include the development and enforcement of water and “bacteriological treatment standards for water and recycling reuse.” Reclaimed water—including its discharge and reuse—is regulated not only under Title 22, but the 1969 Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. This acted as the framework for the state’s water recycling regulations. The state’s nine regional water quality boards, in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), set effluent treatment standards.


Title 22 was (officially) adopted in 2010 and amended in both 2013 and 2018. Among other important changes, the 2018 amendment implements wastewater and recycled water reporting requirements statewide. California sets a great example for what water recycling should look like.