Would you drink recycled sewage water?

In seems the use of recycled sewage water is a major talking point these days, at least, it is among water authorities, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The use of treated sewage is not new:

It’s long been common practise in areas where water is in short supply to use treated waste water (sewage), for irrigation of crops. No different from the 1950/60’s, in the UK, when farmers used to spray new crop fields with ‘slurry’. The faeces of cows and cattle, mixed with water, and sprayed on newly sown fields as a fertilizer. Today, it’s called organic farming.

We’ve already got the bus which runs on treated sewage and food waste. Bill Gates apparently drinks water derived from faeces, and there are those who already drink their own urine – neat. Maintaining it keeps them young and in good health. However, now it seems, Americans in certain areas could be in a similar position in the not too distant future.Lake_Itasca_Mississippi_Source

Time for a new flavoured, stronger beer:

The original article which caught my eye was Clean Water Services of Portland, Oregon US, is in discussions with Portland’s Environmental Quality Commission, to allow them to produce beer from recycled waste water.

 According to Mark Jockers, a spokesperson for Clean Water Services, ‘the special purification system used by the company makes the sewer water cleaner than your average glass of water.’ He continued, ‘What we are trying to do here is start a conversation about the nature of water, and there’s no better way to start a conversation than over a beer.’

The result of a public hearing in January 2015, garnered a lot of support for the idea. Should the state’s Environmental Commission see things the same way, it may well not be long before Portland residents are sipping a whole new brew.

The UK’s been discussing it for years:

There has for many years, been an urban myth doing the rounds of all those who live in London, UK. It’s regularly joked about over a beer, or at dinner parties, that the water Londoners drink has already passed through six other people before it gets to their tap. The frightening thing is, it has an element of truth. Water companies further up country remove the solids, and treat the waste water, before returning it to the River Thames. Diluted with the river water, it continues downstream to be used by the next water authority.Otterton_Water_Treatment_Plant_-_geograph.org.uk_-_956308

Thames Water Authority derives 40% of its drinking water from natural underground wells, leaving 60% to come from the Thames and surface reservoirs, any river water previously used by residents, would already be heavily diluted, before reaching the treatment works, and the taps of London residents.

That could all be about to change:

Thames Water supply 9 million people with their daily water needs, and it’s estimated that figure will be closer to 10.5 million by 2040. Proposals are already being discussed about how supplies can be maintained, before water coming out of the taps turns from a torrent to a trickle. New reservoirs; or piping water from the North, Midlands, or Wales are on the table, along with recycled waste water.

Considering the distances involved in pumping water in from elsewhere, and the cost of building reservoirs, recycling waste water appears to be the most cost effective method of ensuring continued water supplies through the taps of resident Londoners.

Waste water (sewage), is currently treated, and returned to the Thames to continue its journey to the sea. The proposals are to treat this same waste water, but pipe it miles upstream before returning it to the river. From there, mixed with river water, it makes its way back downstream, to be retreated before again entering the water mains supplying the London area.The_Good_Life_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1500162

While treating pure human effluent is not a major problem in itself, the amount of medicines taken by the population on a daily basis, the residue of which also finds its way into the system, is. With additional recycling of water two, three, or four times, this will certainly need looking into – if we are to avoid a future generation of young men walking around sporting man boobs.

Colin Smith [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Itasca_Mississippi_Source.jpg#/media/File:Lake_Itasca_Mississippi_Source.jpg

Sarah Charlesworth [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gaetano Chiericci (1838-1920) (Auktionshaus Döbritz) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 


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