By John Vlahakis

Reusing wastewater as potable and non-potable water will some day become a reality in this country.  A new a report released this month by the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the potential for establishing a more resilient national water supply through the direct recycling of municipal wastewater.  Sixteen experts representing industry, government, and research fields in the social sciences and hard sciences collaborated over three years to produce the study, examining everything from pathogenic risks to public attitudes about reuse.  The committee ultimately concluded that the reuse of municipal wastewater could safely and significantly increase the nation’s available water resources – potable and non-potable – without intermediate discharge into the natural environment.  The non-potable reuse of wastewater is not a new idea, especially where water is a historically stressed resource.  For decades, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has used recycled wastewater in industry, agriculture and commerce.  Ten percent of total water use district-wide now comes from recycling.  By contrast, less than three-tenths of one percent of total water use across the United States involves recycling.  Unfortunately, a stigma tilts against the idea of drinking recycled wastewater, though experts say that this is largely unwarranted.  Wastewater needs to be put on the discussion table of reusing a resource that is constantly being reused.  Wastewater is treated and then discharged into oceans, and rivers.  That water eventually comes back to us as drinking water.  Reusing wastewater can help alleviate drought stricken areas, and increase the access we would have to potable and non-potable water.  The stigma of drinking it, now needs to be set aside.

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