Is 'Toilet to Tap' Really a Viable Option for Water Reuse?

Let’s get one thing straight, the term “toilet to tap” isn’t really how it works and yet conjures up images that are best left to third boys. The reality is, yes the water does get flushed, but it goes through and extensive process to clean and disinfect the water enable that reuse.

The biggest concern of water reuse is the health factor. According to The World Health Organization, there are over 3.4 million deaths globally as a result of contaminated water, typically coming from unsanitary conditions in underdeveloped country. Pathogens, bacteria and chemicals left untreated can cause not only death but also long term illness and disabilities.

The entire notion of toilet to tap is not that we need to starting drinking our own waste but we need to look at how we are treating our waste streams and how we can utilize the effluent in a more efficient manner. Wastewater has never been the sexiest of topics but it needs to be one our highest priorities globally. We can no longer approach our water issues with an out of sight, out of mind mentality. We need to take a proactive approach to our water conservation and reuse.

In states desperately trying to conserve water, like drought-ridden California, “toilet to tap” might be about to become the new norm because, in reality, it just makes sense. In communities like Orange County, recycling wastewater is already going on and will continue to do so, The New York Times reports:

Water spilled out of a spigot, sparklingly clear, into a plastic cup. Just 45 minutes earlier, it was effluent, piped over from Orange County’s wastewater treatment plant next door. At a specialized plant, it then went through several stages of purification that left it cleaner than anything that flows out of a home faucet or comes in a brand-name bottle.

“It’s stripped down to the H, 2 and O,” said Mark Mangus, the general manager of the county water district. He was not exaggerating. Without the minerals that give most cities’ supply a distinctive flavor, this water tastes of nothing.

With advancements in wastewater engineering and new technologies emerging as cost effective alternatives, retrofitting our current infrastructure can help alleviate some of water depletion issues. If communities like Orange County can come to grips with the reality that they must take a look at water reuse is a viable option for water conservation, the rest of the country should be able to do the same.