In most of the United States, many people are blissfully unaware of the challenges of getting potable drinking water. Even if you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the many states where the tap water is too contaminated to safely drink, you can usually purchase bottled water for little more than a dollar a gallon.
This does not reflect the state of the world’s drinking water, which is that as many as 2.1 billion people on this planet do not have regular access to safe drinking water. With populations growing and climate change threatening our renewable water supply, alternative solutions are becoming more and more important.
An obvious alternative solution is purified wastewater, also referred to as sewage water. We waste a tremendous amount of water in the United States, from cooking to toilet flushing to just leaving the tap open. Combined, North America and Europe generate 67 billion cubic meters of wastewater annually. Recycled wastewater can eliminate some of that waste and resolve water shortage issues. Purified recycled water is also a great way to help restore the ecosystem when urban needs have stripped wildlife areas of the water they need to flourish.
Can You Drink Recycled Wastewater?
While the idea of recycling wastewater to produce drinking water may seem distasteful to some, recycled wastewater is a safe way to ensure more communities meet their water needs. Although tap water is not recycled sewage, many communities already indirectly drink reused water. Water recycling processes that make wastewater safe have existed for years in the Middle East and Africa and states like California. The strategy is becoming even more prominent in an era of increasing drought and urban growth.
Through water recycling, water treatment facilities can thoroughly remove toxins, waste, odors and other pollutants from wastewater. For example, reverse osmosis cleans water by forcing it through filters with pores so small that salts, chlorine, minerals and other solids get trapped. Laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act set water standards to ensure recycled water is safe for human consumption.
Water Desalination vs. Water Recycling
Wastewater recycling is just one option for increasing the water supply. Another is desalination, which processes sea water or groundwater to remove salt and other contaminants, so it is safe for consumption. Many communities may prefer desalination because they are concerned about drinking wastewater.
Yet, desalination comes at a high cost and is often not viable for many communities. Building desalination plants is expensive, and sea water isn’t universally available. While water treatment plants subject both types of water to the same multi-step treatment processes, wastewater is easier to treat. It has lower quantities of salt, which is among the most challenging substances to remove because it is dissolved in water. Wastewater is also more accessible than sea water.
In addition, neglecting to recycle wastewater allows the enormous amounts of water a community inevitably produces to go unused. In the United States alone, an average family wastes 95% of the 400 gallons of water they use in their home every day. That water has great potential to provide communities with the water they need to thrive.
How Water Is Recycled
Even if you’re convinced of the benefits of recycled water, you may not be clear on exactly how it works. While the specifics may vary, wastewater treatment plants can work wastewater through a treatment process to separate out the large particles, then into a sedimentation tank with chemicals that separate the water from the sludge and scum. This process removes 80 percent of the solids, making the water safe enough to discharge to the ocean if desired.
Making the water suitable for drinking is a bit more complex and involves taking the recycled water, putting it through secondary treatment to remove more solids, tertiary treatment to remove the rest, adding chlorine to disinfect the water, then taking that water — now suitable for irrigation or other industrial purposes — and adding advanced water technology, including microfiltration, reverse osmosis and UV light disinfection, until eventually, the water is suitable for human consumption.
What Recycled Water Means for the Water Bottle Industry
Those who are in the water bottle industry do not need to be concerned that the new trend toward recycling wastewater could hurt their business. For one, traditional bottled water isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are plenty of people who may never be convinced that their trusted bottled water is no less pure or safe to drink than wastewater. Furthermore, recycled wastewater will still need bottling, so there may be an even greater need for bottled water providers in the future.
Discover Material Handling Solutions From Polymer Solutions International, Inc.
Those in the bottled water industry know 5-gallon water jugs are an effective way to hygienically store large quantities of water. Whether you supply water to an office or some other business, 5-gallon jugs are one solution to keeping plenty of water handy whenever it’s needed. However, effectively storing these containers can be a challenge with limited space.
Polymer Solutions International, Inc. has the bottle rack storage solutions your business needs. Our bottle rack products consist of durable, sustainable plastic and are fully recyclable. Your business can save money and improve efficiency with water bottle storage racks. For more information on water or to browse our selection of water racks for your business, contact Polymer Solutions International Inc. online or call us at 610-325-7500 today.