Facing Extreme Drought and A Booming Population, Texans May Soon Be Drinking Treated Sewage Water

Erik Cheung/CC BY 2.0
"Final Effluent" - but is it ever final?

In Texas, the water flowing from sewage plants -- effluent -- isn't just for golf courses any more. It's for drinking!

As The Houston Chronicle reports: "Wastewater -- the water that runs down the drain as you brush your teeth, wash dishes and clothes, shower and flush your toilet -- will be increasingly important to Texas' future. The 2012 state water plan predicts use of so-called "reclaimed water" will grow by about 50 percent by 2060, to 614,000 acre-feet per year, or more than 20 million gallons."

Texas water suppliers plan to blend a small portion of the highly treated effluent, as necessary, with more 'natural' waters -- presumably to dilute the wretch factor. If the extreme Texas drought continues apace, however, they might have tip the balance more toward the straight effluent, no chaser, blend.

I know plenty of people who are already grossed out by the prospects of drinking perfectly fine tap water from clean river and ground water sources. They want charcoal filters between them and the great corporate polluter phantom. In general, then, I'd say this development is going to be very good for Texas sales of bottled water and point-of-use water filters.

Industrial Impact Potential
Various industry sectors have tight water quality intake specifications.

Examples: bottling; pharmaceutical manufacture; personal care products; food processing; and, so on.

Such operations may one day have to choose between importing water that meets influent manufacturing specs, installing expensive reverse osmosis equipment to remove dissolve solids and odor, or moving operations to, say, a Great Lakes state.

Should stockholders notice a trend in this direction, even Rick Perry will have to put his brain in the defroster.

Grim Reminders
Although there have been some rains in Texas, the overall picture is pretty desperate looking.
NASA, Drought Monitor/CC BY 2.0
Tamakisono/CC BY 2.0

Tags: Drinking Water | Water Conservation | Water Crisis

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