Burbank moving fast toward reclaimed water

By next summer, Burbank’s major consumers of water — most schools, parks and studios — may all be irrigating with reclaimed water.

Burbank Water and Power embarked on a plan in 2007 to install 100,000 additional feet of pipeline throughout the city to allow more customers, especially big ones, to use recycled water for their lawns, shrubs and trees.

“Schools, parks, studios – the Recycled Water Master Plan wants us to serve all the major users in town,” said Matthew Elsner, a principal civil engineer in water services for BWP. “We wanted to get the major users. There are extensions that shoot out to Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, Warner Bros., Disney.”

DeBell Golf Club, one of the city’s first adopters, has been irrigating with recycled water since 1994, Elsner said.


Pipeline extensions carrying the recycled resource to Brace Canyon Park and John Burroughs High School were completed about a month ago, Elsner said.

“There are six pipeline extensions, totaling 100,000 feet of pipe,” Elsner said. “We’ve been tearing up the city really good. The City Council instructed us to accelerate [our work].”

Three elementary schools, including Ralph Emerson, will not be using reclaimed water for irrigation because they are too far from a pipeline extension, Elsner said.

Three parks, including the Santa Anita Play lot, will not use recycled water because of either size or location issues.


“They’re really small and if we have to put in a lot of pipe, it doesn’t make enough economic sense,” Elsner said.

The project’s $17.5 million cost was financed through a combination of bonds and low-interest state loans, Elsner said. The principal and interest on this financing will be paid back with the additional recycled water sales generated by the project.

The new pipes add an additional 300 million gallons a year of recycled water to the system, making an expected total of more than 1 billion gallons of recycled water, Elsner said. Eventually recycled water will be about 15% of the city’s total water portfolio.

Craig Bell, director of facilities for Burbank Unified, said district officials are being mindful of the school schedule and want to avoid any interruptions to classes, so a majority of the work necessary for installation of the reclaimed water system will take place during the summer.

Reclaimed water is being used to irrigate Burbank High School and Muir Middle School, and plans are in place for reclaimed water this summer at Edison, Bell said.

“Schools and parks are a good place to start,” he said. “We’re at the threshold of doing it on a larger scale; I’m sure it will have an impact on savings to the district.”

Initially, recycled water was just used to cool the city’s power plant, Elsner said.

“We’re using an otherwise wasted resource,” Elsner said of the reasons for using reclaimed water. “The channel where the plant discharges to, the water just runs to the ocean. If we can capture it and not [let it run] into the channel, we’re saving a resource. Waste water is being cleaned. Why dump it, when we can use it for something?”


Using recycled water also reduces the expense to the potable water system, Elsner said.

“We always look around and say [other cities aren’t] doing as much and as fast,” Elsner said. “A few others deliver more water. We’re going fast. We’re expanding quickly. We are actually implementing the master plan.”