“Each day, American municipalities discharge enough treated wastewater into natural sources to fill Lake Champlain within six months. Growing pressure on water supplies and calls for updating the ancient subterranean piping infrastructure have brought new scrutiny to this step in the treatment process, which is labeled wasteful and unnecessary by a spectrum of voices.
“As the world enters the 21st century, the human community finds itself searching for new paradigms for water supply and management,” says a report released this month by the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. The report investigates the potential for establishing a more resilient national water supply through the direct recycling of municipal wastewater.
“Law and practice have always been that water goes back into a river or into groundwater or the ocean before it returns for further treatment,” said Brent Haddad, founder and director of the Center for integrated water research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a member of the committee that wrote the report. The critical question, he said, is “whether that natural stage of treatment is actually an efficient stage of treatment.”
“Sixteen experts representing industry, government, and research fields in the social sciences and hard sciences collaborated over three years to produce the study, examining everything from pathogenic risks to public attitudes about reuse.
“The committee ultimately concluded that the reuse of municipal wastewater can safely and significantly increase the nation’s available water resources – potable and non-potable – without intermediate discharge into the natural environment. “The technology for treating wastewater is good enough that we don’t need that intervention,” Dr. Haddad said.”
Read more: NY Times