Santa Clara Co. building high-tech water treatment facility

SAN JOSE, Calif.

The water from the new facility will not be for drinking. Instead it will be used for irrigation and industry. But the technology could one-day be used to clean even waste water.

It is an elaborate and intricate system of pipes and tanks, pumps and valves designed to produce the most basic of our needs water.

"The water that doesn't make it through, or the reject, or concentrate we call it, goes for a second pass," construction manager Gary Ohea said.

The new water purification center has a state-of-the art, three step process that will recycle even the dirtiest water.

"Recycled water is drought-proof, it's water that's in our county that we can use, it's water that otherwise would be going to the bay, so we're being wise stewards of the resource," water district spokesperson Jim Fielder said.

It's still under construction, but when done in mid-2013, the $65 million center will make up to 10 million gallons of highly purified water a day.

The three-step process involves microfiltration, where water is pushed through a membrane with hole one-three-hundredth the width of a human hair, then reverse osmosis, where it's forced at high pressure through a membrane with holes so small water molecules are virtually the only things getting through, and then disinfection with ultraviolet light.

"They're basically stainless steel shell; inside of the shell in contains 40 UV bulbs that run the length of the shell," Ohea said.

The result should be water that's many times cleaner than the average tap water now available in Santa Clara County.

But don't watch for it coming out of your faucet any time soon.

"This will be a test facility to really help us learn from, as we get this thing online, to learn as we treat, what are the various challenges we face and how can we overcome them through the technology," Fielder said.

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