Reusing Sewage Water in Developed Countries

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Jan 8, 2015 8:52:00 AM

sewageIt's hard living in a developed country sometimes, we have all amenities to hand, we never have to think about where to get power, most of us have panic attacks and heart palpitations if we don't have access to the internet. It truly is shocking but now there is something else for us to worry about, sewage. Yes, it's a horror and one we in "civilized" countries may struggle to come to terms with. But, nonetheless, as populations continue to grow and water companies seem determined to make bigger profits from supplying us with our needs, we may have to face the fact that we'll need to start drinking sewage water. Let's get the facts straight and avoid the headlines that our over reactionary press will throw out every time the idea is propositioned. Two significant first world countries are already doing this or in the process of doing it: Singapore and Australia. They're doing it for different reasons but the results are the same, their citizens will have to use treated sewage water in their daily lives. Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR), is where drinking water sources are mixed with treated sewage and has been used for a long time but when the public thinks that it's being done to combat water scarcity, it becomes a PR problem. In Singapore, they launched the NEWater initiative and use state-of-the-art technology from the U.S. to clean the secondary sewage effluent using MF/ultrafiltration and RO membranes followed by UV disinfection. Although this water is mostly used in industry, a small amount (<3%) is fed back into the drinking water reservoirs. The quality of the water is strictly monitored with tests over 239 parameters and exceeds the requirements of the World Health Organization for safe water. However, the success of Singapore hasn't been mirrored in Australia as the country has such a fragmented system of water management and it's down to individual states and cities to manage their own supply. In Toowoomba in Queensland, a planned IPR scheme ground to halt when, despite an initially favorable consultation, lobby groups and other location citizens started to complain and local politicians pulled out and with them went the funding. Non-potable Reuse is a lot less controversial than IPR because the filtered water sewage doesn't go back into the drinking system and is instead used for industrial purposes. As has been seen, Singapore has already implemented this but in Australia where control of the water supply varies between states and cities, it's more challenging, however, in Sydney, effluent is providing 7,000 ML/y for Blue Scope Steel in Brisbane their wastewater treatment plants is providing 40 ML/d to the BP oil refinery for their cooling towards. The bottom line is that as city populations grow and the climate changes in unpredictable ways, we need to find ways to manage the only true essential resource that we can't manufacture. We have the technology to ensure that sewage water and saltwater can be treated in such a way as to remove everything that is harmful to use and it will pose no more threat than the rainwater that fills our reservoirs. Since we were little, we have been conditioned not to do disgusting things, we learned that drinking black water is a bad idea. We need to start trusting our water suppliers that they can and will deliver healthy water from our waste or worrying about our inability to connect to social media will be the least of our worries.

Topics: Did you know?, Hot Topics

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts