A new treatment plant in Orange County, Calif., is one of about 15 in the country to recycle wastewater back into the groundwater drinking water supply -- a plan called indirect potable reuse. Two experts answer your questions on water recycling.
I work in wastewater treatment. I've been hearing the term "toilet-to-tap" for several years now. It's time to come up with a better term the consumer can 'swallow' to get away from the 'yuck' factor. Are any others being thrown around?
Shivaji Deshmukh responds:
"Toilet to Tap" is a misnomer implying the water is taken from the toilet and treated minimally and then delivered directly to customers. It fails to recognize the high level of treatment and time spent underground undergoing natural treatment. In the Groundwater Replenishment System, sewer water goes through stringent source control review, primary and secondary treatment at the Orange County Sanitation District; then microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light with hydrogen peroxide at Orange County Water District. The water is so pure and free of salt that minerals need to be added in to stabilize the water.
Indirect potable reuse is a more appropriate term. This means that water meets all drinking water or potable guidelines but will not be directly delivered to residents. In Orange County's case, the water will remain for at least 6 months to 2 years before being pumped back out.
Cheryl McGovern responds:
The term "toilet-to-tap" is catchy but inaccurate and, although we agree that a more accurate term for the consumer is needed, we don't have one at this time. The term evokes a negative emotional response to recycled wastewater that is unfounded because there is extensive treatment and removal of pollutants before the water comes out of the faucet for drinking.
However, Singapore's water reclamation facility utilizes microfiltration membranes, reverse osmosis membranes and ultraviolet disinfection to further treat wastewater effluent to produce a product water that they refer to as "NEWater."