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Recycled Wastewater Makes the Best Drinking Water

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

What if you could reclaim the water that runs down your drain, pour it into a glass, and have the cleanest drinking water possible? Research says maybe that’s our best option.

Water – it seems simple. You turn on the tap and out it comes. But where does that tap water come from? An aquifer, a lake, a water treatment plant? And what happens to the water once it funnels down the drain? Does it get reused or does it just get dumped into a bay somewhere?

What if we told you that wastewater – the stuff that runs down your drain – can be reclaimed and is a purer drinking water source than the highest quality drinking water out there?

A recent study has proven that recycled wastewater is actually cleaner than groundwater (water that’s found in soil and within rock formations) which has historically been considered the gold standard for drinking water. The process for reclaiming and cleaning waste H20, known as potable reuse, is already being used to supply drinking water in California, Colorado, and Georgia. It is a cheaper process than desalinating salt water and it comes as a big relief to many as America’s water sources are drying up.

Why Recycling Wastewater is Cleaner

According to the article, the study’s researchers assumed that recycled wastewater would be cleaner than conventional drinking water.

“We expected that potable reuse waters would be cleaner, in some cases, than conventional drinking water due to the fact that much more extensive treatment is conducted for them . . . But we were surprised that in some cases the quality of the reuse water, particularly the reverse-osmosis-treated waters, was comparable to groundwater.”

– Dr. William Mitch, Senior Author of study

Because the process of purification for wastewater is so in-depth due to the known degree of pollutants, the reuse system supplies much purer water. Traditional wastewater treatment systems for water sourced from lakes or rivers do not assume such high degree of pollutants and so are not equipped to “deep clean.” This means that the water flowing into a treatment plant could be carrying wastewater components such as chemicals from shampoos or soaps that will not be removed entirely because that plant is not equipped to remove them.

How Clean (Or Not) Is Conventional Drinking Water?

The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to regulate the amount of chemicals within our water sources to ensure safe drinking water. But the study has called the EPA’s success into question.

To test both the toxicity of water sources and the success rate of the EPA’s toxicity measurements, Mitch and his colleagues introduced samples from different water sources to hamster ovary cells to see if the cells would slow or stop growing.

They found that damage did occur and that only 1% of the EPA’s reported chemicals were responsible for the hamster ovary cell’s harm. This means that the EPA is catching only a fraction of the myriad contaminants that are present in our drinking water.

“Even if we include all these other unregulated compounds that a lot of us in this field have been focusing on, that still accounted for only about 16% of the total. It really says we're not necessarily focusing on the right contaminants.” – Dr. William Mitch

So, our water sources are drying up and the conventional methods of purifying our drinking water are not even giving us the best drinking water we could have. Why wouldn’t we then recycle our waste to achieve purer, more sustainable drinking water? Seems like a no-brainer to us.



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