Rattlesnake Reservoir is one of four IRWD recycled water reservoirs.

The innovative ways recycled water is utilized in Irvine

by TOM BERG

There are more than 3 million feet of recycled water pipelines running beneath the Irvine Ranch Water District’s service area. If stretched out, the famed “purple pipes” would reach Reno, Nevada … with room to spare.

It’s one of the most intricate and extensive recycled water systems in the world. And it reliably delivers about 27% of IRWD’s supplies every day.

Recycled water does more than just keep Irvine’s parks and medians green and lush. Here are a few of the cool and curious ways it’s used around town:


On the ice

The rinks at Great Park Ice aren’t your average sheets of ice. They serve as training grounds for the Anaheim Ducks and USA Olympic figure skaters. So they have to be top-notch.

The difference is in the water used to make the ice. It’s recycled, and when the facility opened, it was one of only two rinks in Southern California to use the sustainable source.

It can take about 24,000 gallons of water to create the flawless ice needed to train for the Olympics or the Stanley Cup. Great Park Ice has four rinks and uses about 4.3 million gallons of water each year.

Using recycled water to meet its needs helped the facility earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designation – a globally recognized achievement in sustainability.

Great Park Ice

At 323 feet high

Standing 323 feet high, the 200 and 400 Spectrum Towers are the tallest buildings in Orange County. They’re also among the most sustainable, and recycled water is a big reason why.

The towers are dual-plumbed – the term used when drinking water is delivered to kitchens and sinks while recycled water is used for cooling the buildings and flushing in restrooms. Outdoor landscaping is also watered with recycled supplies. Using recycled water for these purposes saves millions of gallons of drinking water each year.

The iconic towers are just two of more than 125 buildings that use recycled water in IRWD’s area. That makes it the largest fleet of dual-plumbed commercial buildings in California and perhaps the nation.

Irvine Spectrum Towers

In the classroom

A few years ago, UC Irvine partnered with IRWD to modernize the university’s Central Plant – the heart of the utility infrastructure on campus. Instead of drinking water, recycled water now courses through the facility’s cooling towers, chilling about 65 buildings on campus. The effort saves enough drinking water to fill the pools in the nearby UCI aquatics center about 80 times over.

UC Irvine called it “the most significant conservation accomplishment in UCI’s 50-year collaboration with the IRWD … .”

Recycled water is one of Irvine’s great innovations. And it continues to expand its positive impact on the lives of Irvine’s residents.

UC Irvine Campus