The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article in their Real Estate section titled, “Sewer to Spigot: Recycled Water.” Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami-Dade all plan to recycling billions of gallons wastewater to use for drinking water.

As someone who’s been working with wastewater treatment for years, I’ve long known that it’s doable to turn treated wastewater effluent to drinking water. Believe me, if Mississippi River water can be treated to drinking water levels, getting treated wastewater to meet drinking water standards should be a piece of cake.

Cities haven’t moved forward with direct potable recycling in the past for two major reasons. First, the cost has been prohibitive. But increased population combined with water shortages, and improved technology have brought costs more in line. Second, the “yuck” factor made it politically impossible to fund a direct potable reuse project. People just didn’t want to drink that stuff.

Many people don’t realize that they are already drinking recycled wastewater. Most large cities have surface water sources–lakes and rivers. And most of these surface waters receive discharges from wastewater treatment plants. There might only be a short distance between the treated wastewater discharge and the drinking water intake.

Those who get their water from underground aquifers might have more to complain about. But we can only pull water from the aquifers for so long at increasing volumes before we’ll need to supplement that source.

I think we’ll all eventually be drinking some form of recycled wastewater–and we’ll have to trust the plant operators and the technology. Do you think we can get past “yuck?” We might have to.

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