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The Lake Tahoe Films Introduction

The Lake Tahoe Films Introduction
by Dave Evans

December 15, 2011

In 2011, two 16-mm films describing the Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) Plant at the South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD) at South Lake Tahoe, CA, were found in the CH2M HILL archives. As described below, both films were produced in the early part of the 1970 decade for different reasons. These two films have just been converted, unedited, to a DVD format.

Some of those individuals initially viewing this DVD, depending upon their PC Windows or MAC version, have experienced viewing problems such as no sound. While Windows 7 seems to work, problems were experienced with Windows Vista and XP. Should you be using a PC Windows operating system and experiencing problems, try downloading the free "VLC Media Player" software from

For those using an Apple computer, there is a MAC (Apple) version on the DVD that seems to work.

"DVD Film" Titled "South Lake Tahoe - Pure Water from Wastewater"

In the early 1960s, pilot plant studies were conducted that first led to a 2.5 million-gallon-per-day (mgd) Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) Plant and then ultimately to a 7.5-mgd facility that became operational in 1968. This AWT facility, at South Lake Tahoe, was the first of its kind, at this scale, worldwide. The project was funded in part by the U.S. Federal Government to demonstrate how the ultimate wastewater reclamation technologies of that day could reclaim wastewater.

This first 16-mm film about the "South Lake Tahoe Process," produced in 1969/1970 and introduced by the then Governor of California, Ronald Regan, and the later President of the United States, was intended to present these AWT "demonstration" technologies to the world. The film was shown to thousands of visitors to the STPUD facility and to worldwide conferences. It may be of interest to note that the film was shown aboard the first TWA transatlantic Boeing 747 flight in conjunction with a trade Mission sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The film's producers, the STPUD, the design consulting firms of CH2M and Clair Hill and Associates, and suppliers chose not to copyright the film and to provide complementary copies of the film to the STPUD, the Federal Government, and perhaps others.

"DVD Film" Titled "Wastewater - Reject or Resource, South Lake Tahoe Pure Water from Wastewater"

This second film, made in about 1974, was produced to update the STPUD Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) process technology and to reflect regulatory and public interests of the time. This 16-mm film indicates a copyright by STPUD, all rights reserved, and by CH2M HILL.

This film's added process technology update shows the addition of high-pressure spray nozzles and break-point chlorination to further strip ammonia nitrogen at high pH following the Ammonia Stripping Tower.

At the same time, regulatory and public interests were focusing on population growth issues at South Lake Tahoe, the ability of this AWT plant to continuously meet water quality standards that were higher than many drinking water standards, operating costs, and the reuse of the reclaimed water for fishery and irrigation uses outside the Lake Tahoe basin. In Alpine County, CA, the AWT discharge reservoir, Indian Creek Reservoir, had been located at that time to meet California State Law preventing reclaimed wastewater discharge to Lake Tahoe while still benefiting downstream users.

The Lake Tahoe Story