Drinking Water, Straight from the Toilet

 Rich people sewage always sells for more than the sewage of the poor

A growing number of cities and counties in the US grappling with water shortages are turning to a solution that may be tough for some homeowners to stomach: purifying sewage water so that residents can drink it.

Los Angeles mayor Antonio R Villaraigosa announced a proposal on Thursday to begin using heavily cleansed sewage water to increase drinking water supplies. The move comes as California braces for the possibility of the most severe water shortages in decades.

In San Diego, the city council voted in favor of a pilot project that would pump recycled sewage water into a drinking-water reservoir, despite a veto from the mayor over the system’s cost.

Miami-Dade County, Florida, is planning a system that would pump 23 million gallons a day of purified wastewater into the ground; the water will eventually travel to a supply well and be reclaimed for drinking use.

Water recycling is just one of a number of tactics parched cities-many of which have faced water shortages for years-are using.
Cities ranging from San Diego to Denver already recycle wastewater for irrigation and industrial use.

Some communities, such as the Tampa Bay area of Florida, desalinate seawater, which is generally more expensive than recycling.

Many cities are also pushing water-conservation initiatives such as implementing restrictions on when residents can water lawns or offering rebates for high-efficiency washers and toilets.

But cities considering large-scale systems that recycle wastewater to drinking standards may face an uphill battle. Such initiatives-dubbed “toilet to tap” proposals by critics-have encountered resistance in the past as a result of cost and the overall yuck factor. In 2001, Los Angeles scrapped a $55 million wastewater-recycling project that would have provided the equivalent of the annual water needs of 200,000 city residents.

A similar proposal in San Diego was derailed in the late 1990s amid an outcry that poor neighbourhoods would be forced to use the wastewater from rich neighbourhoods.

The idea of using recycled sewage water, after intense filtering and chemical treatment, to replenish aquifers and reservoirs has gotten more notice lately because of technological advances that, industry leaders say, can make the water purer than tap water.

A new system in Orange County, California is claimed to be the largest and most high-tech in the world. The system, which was launched in January, produces 70 million gallons a day, enough water for 500,000 people a year. It cost $481 million to construct and costs $29 million a year to operate.

It uses a three-step process: Sewer water that has already been treated by the county’s sanitation district goes through a microfilter to remove solids and bacteria.

It then undergoes a reverse-osmosis treatment, which passes the water through a membrane filter that removes viruses, salts, pharmaceuticals and other materials. Finally, it is treated with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide to get rid of contaminants that are left.

The water is then pumped into a groundwater basin where it mixes with other water and filters through materials like sand, gravel, and clay.

Some people find it unsettling. “I would never touch it, nor would I give it to my dog to drink,” Wall Street Journal quoted Carina Sampson, a 29-year-old hairstylist in Anaheim, California, as saying. But there are some converts too. California state assemblyman Michael Duvall, from the Orange County community of Yorba Linda, originally was against groundwater replenishment. But after learning just how much water could be recycled, he says, he became a supporter. “It tastes like distilled water,” he said.

Via The Times