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Problems at a Los Angeles sewage treatment plant that caused a massive sewage spill into Santa Monica Bay last month have severely reduced the region’s water recycling ability, forcing officials to divert millions of gallons of clean drinking water at a time of worsening drought conditions.

Even as California Gov. Gavin Newsom urges a voluntary 15% reduction in water usage, the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant‘s inability to fully treat sewage has forced local officials to divert clean drinking water to uses normally served by recycled Hyperion water. Among those uses is an effort to protect coastal aquifers from seawater contamination, as well as the irrigation of parks, cemeteries and golf courses across southwest Los Angeles County.

The sudden loss of millions of gallons of recycled water has alarmed experts and raised new questions about the plant’s ability to function in a warming climate.

“This is water we can’t afford to spare,” said Loyola Marymount University professor emeritus John Dorsey, a wastewater treatment and watershed management researcher.

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