Recycled Water Could Be Heading To Our Household Taps

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) is pressuring the government to consider a direct potable reuse (DPR) system for recycled drinking water. Unlike other water recycling solutions, this involves injecting 'reclaimed' waste-water directly into the potable water supply distribution system. It sounds icky, but it could lead to a vast improvement in water resource management that doesn't rely on rain.

Water picture from Shutterstock

DPR involves the purification of wastewater to remove hazardous substances such as pathogens and toxic chemicals. The process incorporates a form of reverse osmosis that involves forcing feed water through semi-permeable membranes under pressure. The results are then disinfected and blended with conventionally sourced water prior to delivery to consumers.

"Direct potable reuse (DPR) -- recycling directly to the drinking water distribution system -- should be considered as a viable water resource management strategy alongside other supply options around Australia," the ATSE urged in a summary of its findings.

"There are many potential benefits to adopting direct potable reuse, including lower energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, lower capital and operational costs, and a more robust, climate-independent water supply."

This can be achieved by injecting the recycled water either be into a service reservoir or directly into water pipelines. According to ATSE, adopting a large-scale DPR solution would have considerable environmental, economic, and community benefits to all Australians.

The ATSE report notes that government agencies would need to implement "health-based targets" for water quality as the primary regulatory objective. It also acknowledges that DPR would not be capable of meeting all demand for drinking water, so the use of additional water sources would remain essential.

How would you feel about drinking recycled water directly from the tap? Do you trust in science, or is this something that civilians should be able to opt out of? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Drinking Water through Recycling: The benefits and costs of supplying direct to the distribution system [ATSE]


Comments

    it could lead to a vast improvement in water resource management that doesn’t rely on rainIt would lead to a vast improvement in water quality too. We briefly debated it's use in our town, but there is a massive population of oldies here and they were not having it...! Pitty too because the quality of water here is bloody atrocious..! :)

      I remember they also debated this before implementing the stupid desalination plant.. The problem then was people thought of it like drinking out of their toilet bowl, when all that and more ends up in the ocean anyway..

        What most people don't understand is,

        The technology employed in desalination and water recycling is the same. And trust me, filtering out contaminants in water recycling is alot easier to achieve and a lot more robust than filtering out salt in salt water.

      Yes, I daresay if anything the water would probably be fitter for human consumption than current sources from our reservoirs, particularly when reserves are low

      You're in Toowoomba aren't you, Timmah? Doesn't the local council use it to water the sports fields and plants in the city, cause I think I have seen signs saying recycled water in use throughout the city.

        No, we don't have recycled sewage water here for drinking, it may be treated to Non-Potable for watering, but knowing this council it'probably using regular drinking water now that the dam is full... ;)

          Nah didn't mean for drinking, just for watering the plants etc. Something that makes total sense to me lol. Give a few months and we may see drought conditions again ugh.

            Are you local too..? Or just a blow in... :)

            Last edited 16/10/13 7:10 pm

              Nah I live down in Tweed, i'm one of those bloody Mexicans haha. I pass through Toowoomba every now & then on the way out to Leyburn.

    yes.. drink pee... will taste MUCH better.... NOT.

      Its moronic reactions like this that where the reason why it never got off the ground.

        While I agree this is moronic, I think there are much better reasons as to why this SHOULDN'T get off the ground (read my brief thoughts on the matter below).

      Yes, because effluent isn't sent through a whole lot of processes before it is released back into the ecosystem. The last step (at least at my local treatment plant) is a UV treatment, where the water is passed through high intensity UV filter, killing 99.9% (probably 100% in theory) of toxins and microbes in the water. Our local golf course uses said effluent to water their greens, even though it's not suggested we drink it, it was explained to me that it would be safe to drink and would not make you sick.

    Can't taste any worse than our water in Adelaide!

    Last edited 16/10/13 3:45 pm

    To be clear, all water is recycled..
    Rain doesn't just magically fall from the sky every now and again!
    Every molecule of water you drink has been through the bladders, or intestines of billions of creatures including Humans!

    Icky? Do we trust in the science? What kind of comments section are you encouraging? You don't get to opt out of science; it's freakin' SCIENCE. If the study says it's safe, and you can't fault the study, then it's safe.

    Australia is one of the nations most vulnerable to water supply issues - we absolutely should implement this across all states and cities as far as practicable! Hell, if they didn't make a big deal out of it, nobody would notice, except that water prices wouldn't be rising as quickly.

    As the worlds driest inhabited continent (some have many deserts but over all are less dry), I can see why they have this viewpoint.. However the fact is that nothing that critical has ever really happened, and we are still doing quite well to sustain/grow systems as required for the population..

    So this is essentially a huge upfront cost even for a single plant, and since there's no storage as the name implies, and yet cannot supply enough to work on its own - you have to keep running it for it to have any effect...

    .. All so that, just incase we happen to go into another drought, some guy doesn't have his "lifestyle restricted" by water restrictions.. While the same asshole keeps running his sprinklers twice a day in winter so he can have a neon green lawn.

    One day perhaps this will truly be required, until then its a luxury item, hyped up by sensationalism I can only assume to try and sell the idea.. Given it's an acadamy issuing this, I have to imagine in reality this is more about an engineer trying to get his proposal across the line with the government via free publicity, rather than actually trying to 'solve this crisis' so to speak.

      the cost for a single plant is no different to building a sewerage plant anywhere in australia. Most places in Australia require some sort of sewage treatment system before discharging into the waterways and sea.

      I am not particularly fond of the idea of direct potable usage but rather indirect potable usage where recycled water is mixed back with raw water which goes to filtration. this i think takes off the edge of the "ickness".

      Your comment is basically included entirely in mine by the words 'as far as practicable' :P

    nothing that critical has ever really happenedI don't know what state you live in, but here in Queensland the reason they were considering the treatment plant in the first place was because the dams were so low they had to run pipes to surrounding country towns from Brisbane Dams, a couple of which were getting low too. This in fact was the main reason they didn't force a sewage treatment plant in my town. The pipe got here just before we ran out, and it wasn't that long ago that a couple of towns further out actually had to truck water in. The fact is that we could go through a similar or worse event any time in the future, so building these plants should be a priority.

    Last edited 16/10/13 4:35 pm

      And yet, there still would have been some asshole with his sprinklers on.

        True Dat... :)

          yeah i was in towoomba back between 2003 and 2006 when the drought was really bad. it was so bad that we were not allowed to was our rovers when we would come back to base after being out on exercise for a month. Came back from exercise with our rovers that caked up with mud clay that we had to get permission to take them to a car wash.

    It is not recycled water - it is treated sewage , a completely random cocktail of anything washed down a drain including medicines, poisons, dead animals, waste from industry, and chemicals. Basically starting out with the worst possible cocktail and trying to make pure water out of it while maximising profit. It is a terrible, terrible idea.

      Are you aware how the water is treated at the treatment plant? If you were you may just have a different opinion. I've seen the process and had it explained to me by one of the local scientists from our local laboratory which is located at the water treatment plant. What they pump out as effluent into the local river is cleaner then what the council is treating at our drinking water treatment plant.

      Please learn to chemistry.

        You need to familiarise yourself with the problems and limitations of reverse osmosis.

    Given the sorts of things that end up in our water catchments now, you'd think people would be thrilled with the idea of drinking water which had been properly cleaned. But you know what they say, you can lead a horse to water...

    I work in the water industry, and I'd be happy to drink recycled water that come from our plants. Everything is so stirctly checked by the EPA that what comes out is actually pretty good stuff. In fact, some plants the water have been classed "too pure" for the creeks.

    Aren't people weird...

    The logic behind going "ick" at "recycled water" (a misnomer...recycled water could more accurately be called "water") is pretty much the same logic that makes people think homeopathy will work. Both stem from a serious lack of understanding of the difference between "so small we can't see it", and "non-existent".

    (Don't these people remember drawing diagrams of the water cycle when they were at school? Did it not sink in that the same water goes around and around and around??)

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