Recycled Water: Turning Wastewater into Drinking Water

Drinkable water is becoming more and more unsafe for consumption. Approximately 2 billion people in the world live in countries with high water scarcity. The causes of this strain are many: population growth, pollution, and climate change. As the world’s freshwater resources dwindle, scientists are looking for alternative ways to provide the world with clean water. Another entry in our exploration of water technologies is recycled water. Can wastewater be filtered into drinking water?


In the following sections, we define what wastewater is, where it comes from, and the process of converting it to fresh, drinkable water.


Let’s check it out!



What is Wastewater?

Despite what its name suggests, wastewater isn’t what we think it is. Wastewater is a general term used to define water that is contaminated by human use. It is the byproduct of three different activities: residential or domestic, commercial, and industrial. They break down as such:


Residential/domestic wastewater: comes from ordinary living processes like bathing, toilet flushing, laundry, and dishwashing.

Commercial wastewater: refers to non-domestic sources like salons, body repair shops, furniture refinishing, and taxidermy.

Industrial wastewater: byproduct that comes from industrial or commercial manufacturing processes like agriculture. More difficult to treat than others.


Today, though, we’re only going to focus on residential and domestic wastewater. Domestic wastewater is broken up into two water categories: greywater and blackwater. Greywater is what makes up residential wastewater. It comes from showers, dishwater, and requires minimal treatment to be recycled. In comparison, blackwater is found in toilets and kitchen sinks and harbors more dangerous contaminants than greywater.


Wastewater can also include storm runoff, as harmful substances wash off roads, parking lots, and rooftops and end up in our lakes and rivers. Wastewater is made up of 99 percent water and 0.1 percent contaminants. Within that small percentage lies the reason why its wastewater treatment plants are vital. Nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, and fats, oil, and grease from body lotions and cooking oils are among some of the things treating wastewater protects us from.



What is Recycled Water?

Simply put, recycled water is wastewater that has been purified through a thorough, multi-step process. With its contaminants removed, wastewater, now recycled water, transforms into a versatile resource that we can use throughout nature and infrastructure. A few of its primary uses are irrigation, landscaping, and other industrial projects. It also replenishes fragile ecosystems where wildlife, fish, and plants are left vulnerable.


One of the ways wastewater is purified is through a technology called reverse osmosis. A favorite process amongst scientists due to its efficiency, reverse osmosis works by filtering contaminated water through a semi-permeable mesh. Contaminant molecules are larger than water molecules, so when the contaminated water passes through the mesh, it traps the toxins, bacteria, and debris, leaving only clean water to flow through.


Wastewater filtration process with reverse osmosis

Photo Credit: MPDI


Although the recycled water uses are many, there is still a challenge to get people to adopt it as a drinking water source. Mostly because people aren’t excited to drink water that has been in our sinks and toilets. However, if more states within the U.S. move to use recycled water, they will join other countries like Singapore, Australia, Namibia, and fellow states California, New Mexico, and Virginia. Their usage signals that purified or filtered water can be safe, clean, and ease the strain of water shortages.





Pros and Cons of Converting Wastewater into Drinking Water





Fewer Contaminants

As we touched on in our definition of recycled water, wastewater undergoes an extensive purification process before being called recycled water. In fact, studies have shown that recycled water has fewer contaminants than existing treated water supplies.


Greywater is Good for Vegetation

Although greywater isn’t ideal for human consumption, it can be useful for vegetation. Greywater features detergents that have nitrogen and phosphorous in them, which are vital nutrients for plants. Another benefit to reusing greywater is that it keeps it out of the sewers and septic systems and thus out of our local lakes, streams, and ponds.


Lower Equipment Cost

The cost of purifying wastewater is surprisingly less expensive than you think. Because cities are using local water, it reduces the overall cost of sourcing and transporting water. A thing to keep in mind is that these systems may also require more maintenance than a regular sewer or septic system. If cities budget for these issues, they can avoid the impact of maintenance fees.


Saves Money on Bills

Humans use a lot of water. According to the EPA, the average American household uses more than 300 gallons of water a day. Only 10 percent of which is consumed. The majority of our water usage is flushed, rinsed, and poured down the drain. By recycling water, we reduce our use and ultimately reduce our energy and grocery bills.





Recycling Days May Be Limited

Places that have colder climates or experience colder months may be unsuitable for recycling. When water is scarce, you don’t want to get left out in the cold. On the opposite end of the temperature gauge, dry climates that experience a lack of rainfall can have the same limitations.


Health Risks If Not Filtered Properly

Because wastewater comes from many different households, it can contain contaminants that are potentially harmful if ingested. If you are recycling water, is crucial to ensure that you have the right technologies and maintenance in place.



The Science of Water

Although recycled water is a promising alternative water method, some are divided on the idea of recycling toilet and sink water. New technologies get created every day to help many worldwide find a solution to water scarcity.


It could be years before the world is ready to adopt an alternative water method like recycled water fully, but you can benefit from reverse osmosis today with a Puronics whole house water filtration system installed by The Science of Water. We have more than 35 years in the water industry, and after taking one of our free water tests, we can help you solve the water issues that plague your home.


Want to request a free water test or learn more about our services? Contact our team at (352) 745-7070 or (904) 580-0000.