Wastewater Recycling Primer
“Wastewater,” though it may conjure an unappetizing image, can certainly be recycled into clean, fresh water. Recycled water is that which is brought in from municipal sewer systems, agricultural applications, and industrial processes. Once treated, however, wastewater may be even more clean than water from your faucet.
Freshwater has always been an invaluable resource—only about 1% of all the world’s natural water is drinkable—but climate change and a growing population has only made it more invaluable. The United Nations has estimated that by 2030, half of the world’s population will be confronted by water scarcity.
But wastewater treatment methods have been refined and advanced in countries where freshwater is most scarce, such as Singapore and some Sub-Saharan African nations, like Namibia.
As fresh drinking water supplies dwindle all around the world, and even in the United States, wastewater recycling is becoming more and more common.
Recent droughts in the Southwest and parts of California have set historical records. In response, California’s Orange County Water District (OCWD) created an innovative wastewater recycling treatment system, the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), which takes wastewater from sewage and turns it into clean, drinkable water.
The GWRS is the largest water purification facility in the world. It uses cutting-edge technology, such as microfiltration, reverse osmosis (RO) and ultraviolet disinfection to purify wastewater.
The plant is able to treat 100 million gallons a day. This water, according to the OCWD, exceeds both state and federal standards on clean drinking water.
Other states are starting to add recycled wastewater to their groundwater as well. Texas, also facing severe drought, has also pledged to augment water supplies with reclaimed water via wastewater recycling by 2060.
Although drinking reclaimed waster may be psychologically unappealing, through the natural water cycle of the earth, all water is, and has been, recycled. So while our water reclamation processes are definitively modern, water recycling is as ancient as the beginning of time.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons