Could California Drought Make “Sewage To Drinking Water” More Palatable?

drinking water from sewage because of the california drought

drinking water from sewage because of the california drought

Governor Jerry Brown’s order for a 25% reduction in statewide water use has received a ton of attention for the things not included. Agriculture, for instance, isn’t subject to the order designed to help with the current California drought. And companies extracting water to put in bottles can continue to do so. No one’s mentioning sewage treatment, though, whichΒ no doubt accounts for millions of gallons each year… because that’s absolutely necessary just the way it is, right?

No… water used to treat sewage can be recycled to the purity necessary for drinking water. I know, that sounds kind of gross, but as the Los Angeles Times points out, numerous localities around the world, including some in California, are already using “toilet to tap” water systems. Even Bill Gates has gotten in on this game. And some think that LA-area residents, which rejected such a concept in 2000, might be coming around. Even the idea’s most fervent opponents have softened their stances:

Recently, a leader in the effort to stop the Los Angeles project more than a decade ago said he still opposed it but might consider a new plan if officials made a solid case for it. He said one of the reasons he opposed the original plan was that “incompetent” officials failed to explain their rationale to residents in the first place.

“You know, toilet to tap might be the only answer at this point,” said Van Nuys activist Donald Schultz. “I don’t support it, but we’re running out of options. In fact, we may have already run out of options.”

The concern at this point isn’t what you’d think: most get the idea that human wastes can be effectively cleaned from water (though the “yuck” factor is certainly still there). Opponents are more concerned about “trace quantities of drug compounds, hormones and personal care products found in wastewater and surface water”… Β for which there’s currently no regulatory structure.

Yet, residents in nearby Orange County have figured this out, and – to my knowledge, anyway – appropriately treated wastewater hasn’t affected public health there. I suppose a middle ground of using such water only for non-potable uses might be an answer (especially if they’re exempted from the governor’s reduction order). This might also get people used to this idea, and ready to take the next step.

What do you think? Would you drink treated sewage water? Do you think it’s a legitimate response to the ongoing drought in California? Let us know what you think…

Photo credit: Shutterstock

  1. tvwweek

    My contention is that the ‘sustainability’ movement has got a lot of people somewhat brainwashed into believing things which make no inherent sense. Especially when analyzed quantitatively. My statement alludes to that and it was mostly in merriment.

    Admittedly I am a ‘humanist’ of sorts. I don’t reject out-of-hand the notion that humans are an real artifact of our universe and may have an impact on things by virtue of our existence as have many organisms who’ve evolved previous to us. I consider my position to be, simply, not being a non-fundamentalist. I believe that humans should leverage our fairly unique abilities to be as good as stewards as practicable but there are practical limits.

    Most importantly I believe that the ‘sustainability’ movement is animated by people who actually have very little concern for environmental issues and use it primarily as a mechanism to gain control of people and societies and/or simply make a ton of money. The more I research things (which I’ve been doing for about a year now) the more I believe this to be true. Again, that was the basis for me assertion about ‘hitting the nail on the head’. Before that I was much closer to ‘your side’ although I have for years now been increasingly suspicious of the ‘mainstream’ environmental movement.

    You are free to delete my post of course. You will impress me if you do not but it’s unimportant.

    1. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Thanks for spelling it out… and I think you’re right that not everyone’s motivated by environmental good. I’m basically of the mind that if they still end up creating that good, I’m fine with other motivations… I think that’s good long-term.

  2. Tracy

    The city next to where I live recycles water like this. All the data says that the recycled water is as clean as, or even cleaner, than regular water that comes through the tap. The real hurdle is the yuck factor. I agree that reusing it as non-potable water is a good first step, and the drought should make more people/politicians willing to consider it. But making the leap to drinking it is a hard one to overcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *