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Cerritos Mayor’s Letter: City Saves Through Recycled Water System


By Cerritos Mayor Mark E. Pulido

Cerritos is known for its beautiful park-like atmosphere. To maintain the City’s attractively landscaped property, the City utilizes a recycled-water distribution system. The use of recycled water saves approximately 815 million gallons of drinking water every year. This savings is the equivalent of supplying drinking water to approximately 3,000 homes for one year. 

The first City site to be irrigated with recycled water was Iron-Wood Nine Golf Course, which is located next to the Los Coyotes Water Reclamation Plant. The City saved $4,800 per year in irrigation expenses after switching to recycled water at the golf course in 1978.


Recycled water irrigates landscaping throughout the City of Cerritos, including at the Cerritos Towne Center.


Based on this success, and concerned by California’s drought in the 1970s, the City began researching the feasibility of constructing a system to transport recycled water to irrigate other public areas. In May 1980, the City was awarded a $4.5 million grant from the State Office of Water Recycling to design and construct a recycled water distribution system. 

In 1984, the City Council authorized construction of a system that would transport up to 4,000 acre feet of recycled water annually to irrigate public landscaping in Cerritos. The City also entered into a 20-year agreement with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts to purchase up to 4,000 acre feet of recycled water per year from the Los Coyotes Water Reclamation Plant.

Construction of the system was completed in 1988 and a dedication ceremony was held on January 23, 1988. The recycled water pipeline consists of a main loop and laterals that total approximately 22 miles of underground piping ranging in size from 4 inches to 24 inches in diameter. Construction costs for these water lines, along with a water pumping facility at the Los Coyotes Sanitation Plant, totaled $8.9 million, excluding engineering and inspection services. The City and the Cerritos Redevelopment Agency funded costs not covered by the $4.5 million grant.

The Los Coyotes Water Reclamation Plant produces up to 37.5 million gallons of recycled water every day. Originating from industries, businesses and homes, the waste water is treated by a three-stage process by the Sanitation District before being used for irrigation. 

The first stage is primary settling, in which solid materials are removed from the wastewater as they settle to the bottom or float to the top of the primary settling tank. These solids are returned to the sewer to be treated at the main Sanitation Districts’ treatment plant. After primary settling, the water still contains dissolved and suspended organic material, which is removed in the second stage.



During the second stage of the process, a dense biological culture of bacteria and microbes breaks down and feeds on the remaining organic material in the wastewater. After the organic material is consumed, the fattened bacteria and other organisms still suspended in the water form clumps and are carried into a final settling tank where they settle to the bottom and are removed and returned to the sewer to be treated at the main Sanitation Districts’ treatment plant.

In the third stage, the water flows through filters composed of anthracite coal on top of sand, which remove suspended particles that remain in the water. The filtered water is then pumped into chlorination tanks to kill any harmful organisms. It is then delivered to the City and its customers for landscape irrigation.

More than 99 percent of the suspended solids and color are removed during the three-stage treatment process. After the water is treated, it is suitable for public contact, but not drinking, and is monitored in accordance with Health Department requirements.

The City’s recycled water system is used to irrigate more than 200 acres of City-owned property, including the majority of the City’s medians, parks, parkways, decorative fountains and schools. In addition, the recycled water system transports water to various local agencies, including the ABC Unified School District, Artesia Cemetery, Caltrans, Central Basin Municipal Water District, Cerritos College, Cerritos Post Office, Cerritos Regional Park and Valley Christian Schools. Various privately owned landscaped areas such as those at Cerritos Towne Center, portions of the Cerritos Auto Square and some churches, nurseries and housing developments in the City are also irrigated with recycled water. The recycled water is billed monthly at about half the cost of drinking water. 

The City’s recycled water system currently provides approximately 2,900 acre-feet of recycled water annually, but, as mentioned previously, it has the capacity to provide up to 4,000 acre-feet, which translates into 1 billion gallons of water per year. 

In December 2014, the City of Cerritos embarked on a project to expand the City’s recycled water system to serve Forest Lawn. The project involved the construction of approximately 8,200 lineal feet of 16-inch-diameter recycled water pipeline starting from the City of Cerritos and continuing through a portion of the cities of Lakewood and Cypress. The new pipeline crosses two bridges: Coyote Creek, which is shared between Los Angeles County and Orange County, and Moody Creek, located within the Forest Lawn facility. 

The project was completed in December 2015, with final approvals received from the State and OC Department of Health in July 2016. The total project cost was approximately $2.6 million. Roughly $1 million of that amount was funded by a California Department of Water Resources grant, with the remaining cost funded by Forest Lawn. The City of Cerritos is responsible for maintaining the water line and related infrastructure. In addition to helping Forest Lawn save more than 250 acre-feet of potable water annually, the expanded service also generates approximately $50,000 in annual reclaimed water revenue for the City. Forest Lawn has more than 100 acres of lawn area that was previously irrigated with potable water for more than 50 years.

The City of Cerritos also currently supplies recycled water to the cities of Cypress, La Palma and Lakewood. A recent agreement approved by the City Council increased the total reclaimed water provided annually to the City of Lakewood to 504.6 acre-feet, which equates to 165.5 million gallons of potable water saved. This generates approximately $404,000 in annual reclaimed water revenue to the City of Cerritos. The City hopes to continue to share our recycled water system with other local agencies and private entities to help neighboring areas maintain their landscaping and keep the communities beautiful and green.

Cerritos has been a pioneer in the use of recycled water for more than 30 years. As a result of the City’s leadership and foresight in this area, the community is blessed with beautiful green parks, schools, lawns and landscaped areas, which are abundantly evident as one drives throughout Cerritos.

For more information about the City’s recycled-water system, call the Water Division at (562) 916-1223.

  • jas says:

    This is great educational reading.

    Let’s not stop at just this editorial, let’s talk about the entire program. Cerritos Island sections are not part of this and have to pay double the water fees to the city of La Palma for water, yet Island sections pay in to public works for Cerritos, but see no benefit from Cerritos water or recycling of water. ………for 45 years, islands have been promised and promised to be hooked up into Cerritos water and also to Cerritos recycled water.

    To my knowledge La Palma is not using Cerritos water nor Cerritos reclaimed water. El Rancho Verdes Park, which sits in both Cerritos and La Palma, is plumbed in to La Palma water and not using reclaimed irrigation water.

    During the heat waves, be beneficial Cerritos reclaimed water program, to at least water residential boulevards, for free; because of city tree roots have devastated most of the Landscaping in our boulevards including breaching the privately installed irrigation.

    Research the City of Phoenix, weekly, city performs flood irrigation, where the city pays to have all the Landscaping flooded once a week, so the water replenishes deep in to the groundwater. Maybe there’s some other alternatives to irrigation besides recycled water.

    Many cities across the USA, have no water meters, no water bills, the city or the county, issues water for free. This creates a green city, plus reduces the water board unions and costs of perks.

    Yes, we are in drought, but overall, Cerritos residential landscapes are in the worst conditions, they have ever looked. City has vacated CWP, because of the degenerating landscapes. Other cities, residents have green lawns, but Cerritos green lawns are being driven around town in luxury cars, instead of watering their lawns. Palm Springs, California, have more lush landscapes compared to Cerritos, Ca.