PLEASANTON, Calif. — Leon Jung figured he had to do something out of the ordinary to save his brown front lawn in a second year of water rationing.

So he turned to his local sewage plant.

He started trucking in reclaimed water a month ago from the plant that is the first in California to dispense free recycled effluent, or treated sewage, to do-it-yourselfers.

Yes, free water. You just have to be willing to haul it home in tanks, drums, barrels or jugs – a rescue operation that seems a primitive throwback to the basics in a state with the most highly engineered water delivery systems in America.

Business, however, is booming at the household recycled water station in Pleasanton where water down the drain is converted to drought relief for parched lawns and shrubs.

Sewer plants in Martinez and Livermore also have begun giving away reclaimed water to drive-in customers, and plants in several other California cities are considering it.


“This water is making a huge difference with my landscaping,” said Jung, a Dublin resident. “The lawn got pretty brown and dried out last year during the cutbacks. I worry it would die if I didn’t give it this extra help.”

A retired software engineer, Jung took delight in designing his mobile irrigation system with two 55-gallon used food drums strapped to the back of his pickup. He fitted a plastic pipe that acts like a straw to suck up the water from the drums and an electric motor to send it shushing through a hand-held garden hose over his front lawn, ferns, camellia bush and other shrubs.

“I had fun coming up with this,” he said as he steered a stream of treated sewage water on his lawn.

Jung is among the more than 610 residential customers who have registered to fill-em-up at the recycled water station operated by the Dublin San Ramon Services District at its sewer plant in Pleasanton near the crossroads of Interstates 680 and 580.

The popularity of the service has exploded in recent weeks. More than 50 people signed up in recent days as the drought continues and temperatures climb.

Adding to the stakes, Gov. Jerry Brown has called for mandatory water cutbacks statewide averaging 25 percent – the amount Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton already reduced last year.


“Our service is certainly riding a wave of popularity,” said Dan Gallagher, the Dublin San Ramon operations manager. “I’m awed sometimes when I see so many people using our filling station. It takes a lot of work to bring water home, and pump it on your grounds, and then keep doing it again and again.”

The Dublin San Ramon district – a combined water and sewer agency – opened the recycled water station in July with three spigots and minimal expectations. Now the station has eight spigots with another eight to be added soon to keep up with spiraling demand.

Officials said water shortages in the drought have helped many consumers get past the yuck factor of using treated effluent.

The Dublin San Ramon, Livermore and Central Contra Costa Sanitary District sewer plants give the recycled water they distribute extra treatment with sand filters and disinfectant.

“Our tertiary treated recycled water is perfectly safe,” said Sue Stephenson, a Dublin San Ramon spokeswoman.

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