California is mired in a historic drought; we already know that all too well. And climate change – NOAA just declared this past winter the warmest one on record – is compounding the drought. It’s so bad, we’re wondering what, exactly, will we drink as the water literally disappears? Among the possible solutions are desalination of ocean water. But another potential option might turn some off: purification of waste water.
The idea of purifying and drinking waste water – which includes water from your toilet – is hardly new. Heck, television survivalist Bear Grylls has become rather famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for doing a crude version of it out in the wild. But it’s a very real possible solution to a growing problem as Slate outlines in a story today comparing the purification process to desalination.
The main problem with desalination is the cost: Slate notes a desalination plant in Carlsbad will cost $1 billion and the return on investment isn’t all that great. Which is why California is investing another $1 billion into water recycling plants. A year ago, CNN profiled a water recycling plant in Orange County that had just upped its production rate to 100 million gallons of recycled water a day. That may seem like a lot but it’s only enough for a third of the county’s population; adding it to the groundwater supply doubles that.
The use of recycled water is slowly gaining steam, especially over in Australia and Asia, but here in the United States as well. It’s even catching right here, in both the city of San Francisco and the East Bay, in one capacity or another with efforts under way to expand. That expansion has been a bit slow, of course, because of the way it’s perceived. As Columbia University’s Earth Institute puts it: “The use of recycled water for drinking, however, is less common, largely because many people are repelled by the thought of water that’s been in our toilets going to our taps.”
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SOURCE: Marcus Gilmer