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Brentwood Combats Drought By Offering Free Recycled Water To Residents

BRENTWOOD (KPIX 5) – Started during the last water shortage, an innovative program in Brentwood offering recycled water to residents is once again growing in popularity amid a new drought.

The city located in eastern Contra Costa County has its own water system. It takes water largely from the Delta, and Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Anything that goes down a drain has to get treated and sent back into the delta, or get recycled.

As the drought descends, that second option is becoming increasingly popular.

"The only thing you have to really be careful of, you better have a vehicle that can handle the weight," one resident said while filling up his tank. "2,500 pounds."

For anyone who has the truck, the tank, and a little bit of time, here's a chance to save your landscaping.

"Everybody shows proof of residency," said Casey Wichert, wastewater manager for the city of Brentwood. "We give them a card. We train them on how the system works, and what uses of the water are safe and not safe. Then they're free to use it whenever they would like."

Brentwood Water Recycling
A Brentwood resident fills a water tank placed in the back of his pickup with recycled water. (CBS)

Brentwood's recycled water program started in 2015. It's time has quickly come again.

"We started it as a result of the last drought," Wichert explained to KPIX 5. "And the demand for the citizens for recycled water when they started doing the mandatory cutbacks for drinking water."

It's not just the do-it-yourself filling stations. Brentwood has an aggressive recycling program that truly covers the city. That's the water that's used on the nearby playing fields - that have those very lush green lawns.

"Most of our parks and landscape medians throughout the city are all irrigated by recycled water," Wichert said.

As for the drive-up taps, Jose Berber said they have been saving him money for two years.

"This is about 300 and something gallons," Berber says of his tank. "Every two days, I use four of these. I live on the corner so I've got a lot of grass."

With a pump, he can empty this tank faster than the ten minutes it takes to fill it up.

"I get them in four minutes," Berber says. "Then I'm back in here and I get another one."

As for what kind of traffic are they expecting as summer arrives and the drought deepens, that depends on what other steps are taken by the city.

"It's hard to say," Wichert said. "It depends mainly on how many mandatory drinking water cutbacks we get hit with. If the residents are exposed to that, the program becomes much more popular."

During winter months, Brentwood recycles about 20% percent of its wastewater. In the summer, it has been as high as 50%.

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