We’ve all heard the survival stories in which people stayed alive by drinking their own waste. I often wonder how anyone could possibly be that thirsty, but I guess you do what you have to do to survive.
In some areas where water is the most scarce, this model is used on a much more grandiose scale. Water that is flushed down the toilet is scrubbed very hard with filters, then screened, then treated with chemicals and passed under ultraviolet light. Yep, purifying sewer water in order to increase the water supply is being done or at least being considered in many parts of the world.
Recycling wastewater sounds disgusting, but if the water can be purified by these processes, it may be the answer for areas of the world that are most affected by droughts. One water recycling plant in Orange County, California, can process 70 million gallons of wastewater per day. The plant has received visitors from water managers all around the world.
The plant takes in dark colored water from a sanitation plant, runs it through microfilters to remove solids, then forces it through thin, porous membranes at high pressure before cleaning it with peroxide and ultraviolet light to break down any remaining pharmaceuticals and carcinogens.
As of now, this recycled wastewater does not end up coming out of the taps in American homes, as it does in some places in the world. But it is used for the many other purposes that water is needed, including for irrigation and landscaping, as well as use by industrial plants.
Does the thought of recycling wastewater make you cringe? How would you feel if it ended up eventually coming through your kitchen tap?