Proponents say the process would create cleaner water than what flows out of most faucets now. Critics, however, charge that the public-works project - the most costly in the county's history - is too expensive and reliable water is already available. They also contend that although the sanitation district would be sending a smaller volume of treated sewage into the ocean, it would contain higher concentrations of pathogens.
A California project that renders highly treated sewage drinkable is hoping to lessen Orange County's dependence on costly imported supplies. Officials overwhelmingly approved the first stage of a controversial $600-million plan to turn sewage into drinking water. About 60 percent of the current water supply come from local ground water, while the rest is imported.