As the current drought in California continues, the parched state is forced to consider the unthinkable: drinking treated sewage.
Yes the thought does leave a foul taste in the mouth, the idea of downing a fresh glass of something that originally came from your toilet is hardly the most delicious option and undeniably comes with what the LA Times has eloquently dubbed the ‘yuck factor’, but is drinking treated sewage really so insane?
Usually treated sewage, no matter how clean, is used for non-potable functions like irrigation, but never as potable (drinking) water. We at PWS provide wastewater treatment to the highest standards with Biological Nutrient Removal and advanced filtration technology, meaning that the resulting water can be as clear as bottled water. See below!
However, even with sewage treatment as thorough as this, current regulations forbid its use as drinking water, which is what makes the situation in California so interesting. If these regulations were lifted, and the water deemed safe for drinking, could we get over the ‘yuck factor’ and solve not only water shortages in California but throughout the world?
Technically, many people already drink recycled sewage. If you live in London and are particularly squeamish you might want to stop reading now because the water from your tap has on average already been through seven other people.
How is this possible? Well, currently sewage works treat our sewage and discharge it to the nearest watercourse. Often you will find a sewage works discharging to a river at one point, and then a water treatment plant abstracting the river water a few hundred meters downstream. The psychological effect of putting the water in to the river first makes the water from our taps seem more palatable, but in reality there would be little difference in simply treating the water to potable standard at the same treatment works.
Yes, it is difficult to swallow, both literally and figuratively but if the issue is psychological rather than a health concern, recycled drinking water could be the next logical step, not just as a last resort as is the case in California but as a genuinely sustainable water source.
Can you fathom drinking treated sewage? Let us know in the comments below.