Recycling Water for Drinking


This Orange County, Calif., Water District plant will purify sewer water to feed drinking water supplies, but not directly to the tap. Images by Axel Koester for The New York Times

They have a water problem in Orange County, California, and have built the world's largest sewage treatment plant that takes water from "toilet to tap" -after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, reverse osmosis, hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light. One could drink it right out of the outlet but they don't. Even though manager Michael Markus says it is "is as pure as distilled water", they pump it back into the aquifer, where it helps hold off seawater from entering the aquifer and slowly moves through the aquifer, the best filter there is.

One would think that the southwest would jump at such technology; after all, much of North America gets its water from the Great Lakes or the Colorado and Mississippi rivers, where municipalities dump treated water in and others take it out and treat it to make drinking water. And their sewage treatment plants don't do as good a job as this one.

But no, according to the New York Times, the projects are costly and often face health concerns from opponents:

Such was the case on Nov. 6 in Tucson, where a wide-ranging ballot measure that would have barred the city from using purified water in drinking water supplies failed overwhelmingly. The water department there said it had no such plans but the idea has been discussed in the past.

John Kromko, a former Arizona state legislator who advocated for the prohibition, said he was skeptical about claims that the recycling process cleanses all contaminants from the water and he suggested that Tucson limit growth rather than find new ways to feed it.

"We really don't know how safe it is," he said. "And if we controlled growth we would never have to worry about drinking it." ::New York Times

Tags: California