Potty Water: It’s what’s for drinking

Ten million dogs can’t be wrong?

The New York Times reports in “As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows From Taps“:

… With climate change threatening to diminish water supplies in the fast-growing Southwest, more cities are considering the potential of reclaimed water. A new report from the National Academy of Sciences said that if coastal communities used advanced treatment procedures on the effluent that is now sent out to sea, it could increase the amount of municipal water available by as much as 27 percent…

“It isn’t toilet to tap. It’s toilet to treatment to treatment to treatment to tap,” said Belinda Smith, a Surfrider volunteer.

Water shortages and rationing, however, did the most to change attitudes. San Diego’s annual rainfall meets about 15 percent of its needs, and the city’s water managers grew worried that as California reeled from droughts, they could have trouble importing water…

While recycled water is perfectly safe — and we would feel better if municipalities treated the waste water with chlorine — water is the most abundant substance on the planet, only made scarce radical environmentalists who oppose every solution to water shortages except rationing.

3 thoughts on “Potty Water: It’s what’s for drinking”

  1. 1: Drinking water is short in certain locals, such as the Western part of my state, and it has nothing to do with poor management as much as our penchant for deserts and multi-year droughts. Moving water is absurdly expensive, so it is quite reasonable to reuse local water.

    2: All wastewater is chlorinated. There is a minimum residual chlorine that you have to meet after it leaves your system before you discharge (some locations also have maximums that require dechlorination).

    3: Walter, here’s how it works. You have your water treatment plant. This takes the muddy, filthy water out of the river (or the mostly-clean water out of the aquifer) and cleans it up before it comes to your house. These have extremely good ontime and effectiveness. If this has a failure, they issue boil-water notices and all that jazz (it’s a big deal). You have your wastewater treatment plant. This cleans up water before putting it into the river. This has 98% ontime and any discharges are heavily fined by the state. In normal operating conditions, the discharge water is as clean or cleaner than the water that it’s going into.

    This change means that instead of the wastewater plant going to the river, it will go back to the water treatment plant. As the treatment plant already has massive processing facilities for getting mud, dirt, and gunk out of water, cleaning the wastewater to potable standards won’t be a problem.

  2. Since most drinking water (all?) is recycled, what’s the big deal? Modern wastewater and drinking water treatment systems are quite capable of taking “potty water” and converting it to drinking water. If your municipality takes water from a river for drinking water, guess what’s happening upstream. When I lived in New Orleans, my friends in the midwest reminded me quite often “I don’t flush, you don’t drink.” Never noticed any problems with the water.

    Still have a couple of bottles of Outhouse Springs, America’s Truly Recycled Water. http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/outhouse_springs_water

  3. Municipal water systems have a typical leak rate of 20%. Rather than building additional infrastucture to recycle waste, (which *will* have failures, I guarantee) why don’t they start with a piping system (like the PE systems used in gas delivery) to stop pumping billions of gallons of clean treated water directly into the ground? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ9bNipHoNY

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