Recycled Water: Wastewater Poised to Be a Significant Source of The Nation's Water Supply
Using wastewater for water consumption may becontroversial. However, a report released on Tuesday from Congresss science advisory group, the National Research Council, suggests that treated wastewater has the potential to be a large component of the nations future water supply. Recycled water is also known as "reclaimed water, "water reuse," or "toilet to tap" by opponents.
Recycled water is already a common, established practicein the United States- estimated to be less than 1%. of U.S.water. However, it is still controversial. Southern California is especially relevant to this study as a California watercrisis has caused much debate on water consumption over the years. A decade ago, a plan to replenish the San Fernando Valley groundwater with recycled water was stopped in Los Angeles due to public outcry. Today, Southern California it is still a pioneer in usingtreated wastewater for its aquifers, and the majority of its treated water is discharged into the Pacific Ocean.
According to the study, out of the 32 billion gallons ofwater per day discharged nationwide, 12 billion gallons of municipal wastewater are discharged into an ocean orestuary. Reusing these discharges would increase available water resources to 27% of the publics supply- animportant step in combating water shortages in the future as the population increases and the water supply decreases.
The study outlines that water recycling rules differ bystate, but adjustments to federal regulations could provide more public confidence and a level of public health protection. The study recommends conducting furtherresearch to improve the coordination between federal and non-governmental organizations and to update the National Pretreatment Program to improve water reuse.
The study reports that the treated wastewater does not pose a health risk due to technological advancements. R. Rhodes Trussel, chair of the committee who wrote the report, stated, "Wastewater reuse is poised to become alegitimate part of the nations water supply portfolio given recent improvements to treatment processes. Although reuse is not a panacea, wastewater discharged to the environment is of such quantity that it could measurably complement water from other sources and managementstrategies." The study states that in some cases, the health risks of wastewater reuse may be lower than the risks of existing water supplies.
The study said that the costs of water reuse vary widely-it tends to be more expensive than conventional water conservation options but costs less than seawaterdesalination. However, the report urges the water industry to consider other costs and benefits. For example, water recycling could be used with another water conservation program during peak demands, and that recycled water could have a smaller carbon footprint than existing systems.