Sewage to be recycled into drinking water, as California battles drought

Originally published at: Sewage to be recycled into drinking water, as California battles drought | Boing Boing


Folks don’t like to think about it this way, but just about every community that gets its water from a river is making use of treated sewage water that was dumped into the river by another community somewhere upstream. Plus there’s the whole thing about every cup of water containing thousands of molecules that once passed through the kidneys of [pick your favorite historical figure].


I wonder which is more expensive, purifying sewage or desalination?

Eventually they 'll be using both methods for SoCal drinking water.


What I’ve read is that recycling waste water is about half the cost of desalination, which is inherently energy intensive.

Of course there’s always the option of being smarter about what we grow here in CA, such as banning the use of water to grow alfalfa for export. That would save more water than increased efficiency in residential water use ever could.


If you go far enough back, the molecules of just about everything we eat/drink was at one point a constituent of the less dignified segments of the nitrogen cycle.


I’ve usually seen this for dinosaurs, not a person, but is anyone aware of a treatment that does this accurately?

Atoms, sure, no question in my mind. Molecules? Notsomuch. Water gets created and destroyed in biological systems all the time. The same water molecule lasting a significant amount of time seems unlikely to me.


Almonds are almost as bad as rice.


Neil deGrasse Tyson has popularized that in some of his writings and lectures about the interconnected nature of the world/universe.


That’s why I say both methods will eventually be used. The Resnicks and other billionaire “family farmers” will lay claim to every drop of water they can long before it can reach the water systems of Southern California cities.


Yeah desalinization is very difficult but also the waste by products are very toxic. On the other hand treating waste water is less of an uphill battle getting it to be potable

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I am unsure whether drought or sea level hurts first and worst. Most of the water piped into my house does not end up in my gut. I live 30 m above sea level, but somewhere between 5 and 10 meters I stop being able to flush my toilet, and that supposes it remains possible for the pipes to supply my house with water.

" draft plans for using highly purified sewage as drinking water "

This statement is not correct though really is it? It is more a matter of clean water being extracted from sewage.


From a water-use-per-calorie standpoint raising animals for meat (with the possible exception of insect protein) is far and away the worst offender of any food grown in California.


Good tech and training for when we head for the stars on longships.

Turn about is fair play.

New Orleans joins chat…
when i was there on a work assignment for 2 years in the 80s, there was this oft-told anecdote(?) truism(?) factoid(?) that said that every drop of the 17,000 cubic meters of water passing the Port of New Orleans per second, had been used something like sixteen times by everything upriver from there.
true or not, the idea is real. fresh water is constantly used, cycled and reused over and over and over and… yeah.
recycling waste water is not entirely “toilet water”, but includes a much larger portion of gray water - effluent from sources such as bath/shower, dish- and clothes washing in the household, wastewater from business and commercial use excluding toilet. my concern is how does the proposed procedure manage chemical waste - detergents, solvents, prescription drugs, etc. - to deliver a truly clean, drinkable water?


If the natural water cycle can get that crap out of our drinking water then there must be a way for us to do it too.

If the natural water cycle can’t get that crap out of our drinking water then we’re in even bigger trouble.


A related version I once heard from a school teacher: “The breath of air you just inhaled contains some of the air from Julius Caesar’s dying breath.”

On further questioning, it turned out to be based on the fact that the number of molecules in a lungful of air is bigger than the number of lungfuls of air in the atmosphere, but the teacher was unable to explain why we should assume that the molecules in Caesar’s dying breath still existed, rather than having been converted into other molecules. The teacher also could not explain why we would assume Caesar’s dying breath would been a full breath. If he’d been stabbed right at the end of an exhalation, his dying breath could have been tiny.

That’ll teach them to not try to introduce dramatic factoids into a science class!

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The problem will be the bottled water industry. They’ve spent so much effort convincing and implying to Americans that our tap water is inherently unsafe. We all know that bottled water is largely repackaged tap water. When I pointed this out to a friend, she said “yes but…bottled water goes through…processes!” I knew enough not to press the issue, but tried in more subtle ways to change her habits (I got her a Brita-style filter), but that wasn’t successful.

She isn’t ignorant, but is of a general ignorance of the problems with bottled water, which I think will be challenging for municipal projects like this to be understood as beneficial to the public.