Human brains are stimulated with a powerful feeling of aversion. Even to the slightest suggestion of contamination, humans probably evolve to be easily disgusted because it somehow saved from eating unpleasant stuff foods through the snacks or food served to you is perfectly safe to eat. Disgust still makes humans' decisions, even the rational way of figuring out what’s safe.
The imagery is not enticing. Many people are disgusted by the idea, even knowing that the water, once treated, maybe cleaner than what comes out in most faucets. However, countries like Singapore and Namibia, which have limited freshwater supplies, are being augmented by adding highly treated wastewater to their drinking water.
Due to climate change and increasing population, it strains freshwater resources, and such a strategy is likely to become more common around the world, even in the United States.
What Water Recycling is For
Recycled water or reclaimed water (also called wastewater or sewage) has been used to sustain landscaping irrigation, commercial and industrial water needs, recharging groundwater aquifers, and drinking. Recycled water is treated to remove impurities and other contaminants primarily for water conservation and sustainability, instead of discharging to surface waters to rivers and oceans.
It is a fact that all water on Earth is considered recycled water, but "recycled water" or "reclaimed water" typically means wastewater sent from a home or business through a pipeline system to a treatment facility. It is treated to a level consistent with its intended use, and then the water is routed right away to a recycled water system. It is treated differently depending upon the source, water use, and how it gets delivered.
There are cases that recycled water is being used to increase stream flow by releasing storage water from tanks under normal conditions. This is mainly to benefit the ecosystem and improve aesthetics, for instance, along Calera Creek in the City of Pacifica, CA. In addition, there has been scientifically proven water technology that allows communities to reuse water for many possible and varied purposes intended for industrial cooling, irrigation, and drinking.
Here are a few lists of communities that have safely used recycled water for many years:
Water recycling suggests and financial savings and utilized resources. This kind of implementation should integrally be connected with solutions, where it is most economical to attain the expected outcomes.
How is Recycled Water Produced?
Recycled water is a product of a wastewater treatment plant where the local wastewater is collected from schools, offices, households, hospitals, industrial and commercial facilities, then prepare the water for reuse or discharge into the environment as means of processes in several stages of treatment. These treatment processes are intended to ensure that wastewater is safe and reliable for its projected use.
There is three basic treatment process that is required for treating the wastewater and these include:
- Primary treatment—the wastewater is momentarily held in a sink so solid waste materials can settle to the bottom and be removed.
- Secondary treatment—when the solid waste materials are removed by primary treatment, the water left behind is treated further to remove or reduce the remaining wastes suspended in the water.
- Tertiary treatment—the final stage involves further removal of harmful chemicals and cleansing to kill disease-causing organisms.
The minimum requirement for treating reclaimed water is secondary treatment, albeit many treatment plants use tertiary treatment. Reclaimed or recycled water flows out of the wastewater treatment plant and is piped back to the community for its intended use.
Is Recycled Water Safe for Drinking?
Even though there are concerns about how water recycling possibly hurts the environment, it has several significant benefits, and the most important is sustainability. Is recycled water safe to use? Why bother to use recycled water? Some countries or parts in the world where wastewater that goes through the drain – toilet flushing, yes – are being filtered and treated now until it has become as pure as spring water. It probably sounds appalling, but, yes, recycled water is safe and tastes just like any other, like the ordinary drinking water, bottled or tap.
Here are facts to know about the safety of recycled water:
- Recycles water is subject to a series and array of quality testing to make sure that it is safe for use;
- There is a minimal health risk associated with exposure to chemical contaminants. This has been reported by the National Research Council (NRC) wherein the reviewed current wastewater treatment have found;
- Another NRC authors reported that the government could extend so much help to increase public confidence and trust in wastewater treatment programs for drinking – the potable water – as well as provide consistent maximum level of protection across the nation;
- As stated in the Clean Water Act, the treatment regulations could be updated to more aggressively track organic contaminants and pursue them, which has been tremendously advanced to reduce toxins in the nations’ wastewater.
Nonetheless, perhaps the people's greatest challenge before it is fully accepted as drinking recyclable wastewater is not legislative or technological, but it's psychological. This is the biggest hurdle that must be conquered and defeated, the public's mindset and insight about recycled water.
The Benefits of Water Recycling and Reuse
- Agricultural use such as irrigation of crops, forestry, pasture, flowers, viticulture, and sugar cane growing
- Farming such as irrigation
- Non-drinking uses in households like laundry, washing dishes, gardening, cleaning the garage, etc.
- watering golf courses and recreational parks like zoos, parks, and trails
- Industrial uses such as washing and cooling in power stations and factories
- Fire Fighting water supply
- Municipal landscapes and environmental flows
- Recharging our groundwater aquifers
The downside of Water Recycling
The Wildlife and Ecosystem
Threatens Human Health
Upshots of Water Recycling
Studies and research show that water recycling has proven to be effective and has successfully created a new and reliable water supply without compromising public health.
Non-potable reuse has been the widely accepted practice that hopefully will continue to grow and progress. There are several regions in the United States. However, the use of recycled water is increasing to accommodate the environment's needs and growing water supply demands.
Many predictions as the studies say that advances in wastewater treatment technology and health studies of not directly potable reuse will soon become more common and rampant. Water recycling and gray water require far less energy than treating salt water with the aid of the desalination system.
The treatment of wastewater for reuse and the installation of distribution systems with centralized facilities can be expensive initially compared to the water supply alternatives, which are imported water, groundwater, or even the usage of gray water onsite from homes. In contrast, water recycling is a sustainable approach and can be cost-effective in the long run.
Water recycling will play a greater role in human’s overall water supply as water energy demands and environmental needs grow. By working hand in hand, together, overcoming the obstacles, and water conservation and productivity, water recycling can help manage the vital water resources sustainably.
Learn more related stories about Water Recycling and Reuse
- People in Namibia have been recycling sewage into drinking water for 50 years now.
- MUNICIPAL WATER RECYCLING IN CALIFORNIA
- Drinking sewage: solving Singapore's water problem