January 13, 2012
You May Be Drinking Wastewater Without Knowing It
According to a report by the National Research Council (NRC), more Americans are drinking recycled wastewater, whether they are aware of it or not.
The report said that treated wastewater poses no greater health risks than existing water supplies and in some instances may be even safer to drink.
Jorg Drewes, an engineering professor at the Colorado School of Mines who contributed to the report, said it is a waste not to reuse the nation's wastewater since almost all of it is treated before discharge.
He said this method can be done without putting the public at risk, and can help combat growing water scarcity as the U.S. population begins to grow.
According to the NRC report, 12 billion gallons of the 32 billion gallons of wastewater discharged every day in the U.S. goes into an ocean or estuary, becoming permanently lost.
Some communities reuse the water for irrigation and industrial purposes, while others may actually use it for drinking water.
The report said the public does not realize that it is drinking water that was treated after being discharged as wastewater somewhere upstream.
"For example, wastewater discharged into the Trinity River from Dallas/Fort Worth flows south into Lake Livingston, the source for Houston's drinking water," USA Today reported.
The report said there has been no systemic analysis of its extent nationwide since a 1980 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It said water reuse projects tend to cost more than most water conservation options, but less than seawater desalination and other supply alternatives.
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