A study released by the National Research Council (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/11/local/la-me-water-reuse-20120111) asserts that treated wastewater (i.e. treated sewage) can and should safely be used as a large-scale source of drinking water in the United States. The study looked at pathogens and chemical pollutants in drinking water from conventional aquifers versus aquifers partially “recharged” with treated wastewater and found that there is no increased risk to public health associated with using treated wastewater.
While some municipalities in the perpetually water-starved Southeast already inject treated wastewater into their aquifers, for the most part coastal cities release their treated waste into the oceans wasting a valuable source of fresh water. Widespread acceptance has been hindered in part by the “ick factor” associated with so-called “toilet to tap” projects. However, given the increased pressure placed on our fresh water supply from a growing population with increasingly consumptive lifestyles, as well as the potential effects of climate change, we need to be looking at every potential source of fresh water.
Would you have a problem with your municipality releasing treated wastewater into your water supply?
Would you be OK having treated wastewater released into your water supply to conserve water for those who choose to live in drought-stricken regions of the U.S.?
In a story more relevant to water-quality issues in the soggy Northwest, the city of Seattle in partnership with Vulcan Real Estate may finally be moving forward with the “swale on Yale” project to naturally filter contaminated storm water flowing off Capitol Hill and draining into Lake Union. It’s always exciting to see public-private partnerships aimed at remediating environmental harm caused by the built environment.