STANFORD -- Construction will begin in May for a $3.5 million water recovery testing center at Stanford University, partly funded by a Santa Cruz couple.

The William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center, expected to be completed in February, will test new technologies intended to recover clean water, energy and materials from wastewater.

The goal, said Stanford engineering professor and project organizer Richard Luthy, is to jump-start commercial development. By using Stanford's campus as testing ground, researchers can demonstrate their technology is safe, effective and compatible with centralized treatment plants, he said. The center's first project, developed by Stanford professor Perry McCarty, uses a wastewater treatment system that produces methane to power itself.

"It's really a wave of the future," Luthy said. "It's a way that we could conceivably put these (technologies) in place without disrupting the current system so much."

Luthy said the West Coast's dependence on groundwater has reached its limit.

"We don't have enough water in California to sustain the population and the economy," Luthy said. "So in the future, we will be looking for better ways to save water, to reuse water and save energy."

Stanford relies on the limited Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for its potable water, and the reclamation plant would help with any plans to expand or threat of drought. Reclaimed water could be used for irrigation and street cleaning, and Hetch Hetchy water for in-building use, said Luthy.

"It could really change the way we do business," he said.

Santa Cruz resident and Stanford Law School alum William Codiga became involved with the project in 2010, attracted by its scope and potential, he said. Along with his wife Cloy Codiga, he donated $1.5 million toward the project.

"What began as an effort to use our retirement nest egg in a meaningful way has become a deliciously fabulous experiment," William Codiga said. "It is just the beginning."

Codiga said California residents can't depend on rainfall or the promise of desalination.

"This project needs be done now and pursued with vigor," Codiga said.

The project is seeking more funding from private donors, industry and government agencies.