Sand Canyon Reservoir
Sand Canyon Reservoir — one of 16 critical storage basins for recycled water.

How Irvine Stays so Green

Landscaping irrigated by recycled water.
Landscaping irrigated by recycled water.

Recycled water irrigates about 85 percent of public and commercial landscaping within the Irvine Ranch Water District, providing a reliable and sustainable resource.

As communities around the nation, particularly in the arid Southwest, struggle to meet their water needs, the Irvine Ranch Water District has long been a national leader in the recycling of wastewater.

“If Irvine looks greener and lusher than other communities, it’s because of our recycled water program,” said Irvine Ranch Water District General Manager Paul Cook. “While others cut back, Irvine is able to maintain its tree-lined streets, green medians and lush common areas because every gallon of recycled water used there saves a gallon of drinking water.”

Since 1967, IRWD has lived by the motto “Water is too valuable to use just once.” That year, the water district, with significant support from the Irvine Company, opened the Michelson Water Recycling Plant and began delivering recycled water for irrigation across the district.

This program of water recycling and distribution is made possible by hundreds of miles of purple pipes, a dedicated system — separate and distinct from the drinking water supply that carries recycled water from the treatment facility to irrigation sites all over the district.

When Irvine was in its earliest master-planning stage, the IRWD Board of Directors had the foresight to include this system of purple pipes — a color Irvine Ranch chose that now is an industry standard.

Through thoughtful planning, it is possible to extend recycled water throughout the community without the trouble and expense of digging up roads to install new pipelines.

Recycled water began flowing to customers in 1967. By 1990, 14 percent of all water used in the Irvine Ranch Water District was recycled. And today, more than 20 million gallons per day of recycled water flows through more than 500 miles of purple pipes.

How is recycled water used in my city?

  • Watering parks
  • Watering golf courses
  • Watering school playing fields
  • Watering HOA common areas and front yards
  • In manufacturing processes
  • Toilets in dual-plumbed buildings
  • Cooling towers

“If Irvine looks greener and lusher than other communities, it’s because of our recycled water program,” said Irvine Ranch Water District General Manager Paul Cook.

“While other communities have struggled, Irvine is able to maintain its tree-lined streets, green medians and lush common areas — because every gallon of recycled water used there saves a gallon of drinking water.”

Recycled water pipes
Recycled water is delivered through purple pipes, a distribution system that is completely separate from the drinking water infrastructure.

The Irvine Ranch Water District recycles 9 billion gallons of water each year, more than any other city in America. Here’s how it all happens: Learn more at www.irwd.com/services/recycled-water. “If Irvine looks greener and lusher than other communities, it’s because of our recycled water program,” said Irvine Ranch Water District General Manager Paul Cook. “While other communities have struggled, Irvine is able to maintain its tree-lined streets, green medians and lush common areas — because every gallon of recycled water used there saves a gallon of drinking water.” 1. Wastewater is collected 2. Wastewater travels to water recycling plants at Michelson and Los Alisos Recycling Plants 3. Water is treated to the state standard for irrigation purposes 4. Recycled water is stored in 16 water reservoirs with a combined capacity of 1.6 billion gallons 5. More than 500 miles of dedicated purple pipes distribute water to irrigation sites