March 2012

Volume 21, Number 3

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Public Distaste an Obstacle to Direct Wastewater Recycling

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USGS produces educational posters illustrating many aspects of wastewater treatment.

Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

By Erin Weaver

American municipalities currently discharge 32 billion gallons a day of treated wastewater back into natural sources, from which water is drawn for further treatment prior to use. A new report from the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concludes that treated wastewater could instead be safely returned directly to the water supply.

According to the New York Times, recycling for drinking water or landscaping use is already established in areas of Virginia, Texas, and New Mexico and is being considered elsewhere; a ski resort in Arizona even uses it for snowmaking. Still, less than 0.3% of water use in the U.S. currently involves recycled water, with the public remaining skeptical of direct return of treated wastewater to the drinking supply. This, the report suggests, is an outdated fear, as levels of chemicals and pathogens in recycled water are equivalent to those in existing water supplies.

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February 28, 2012