Straight from the JJ Hemingway “Ooh, Ick!” files comes a story out of Texas where residents may soon be drinking water that comes directly from wastewater.  Yes, that means water from toilets.  No, I’m not kidding!  I'm into recycling, but this may be taking things a little too far.

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The City of Wichita Falls, Texas has had 3 years of extreme drought conditions, and they have lived with some very extreme water restrictions.  Citizens have reduced their water usage by about one-third, but the water supply is still predicted to run out in 2 years.  What can be done about this?

The city built a 13-mile pipeline that connects the wastewater plant to the plant where the water is purified for drinking and household use.  That means, the waste that people flush down their toilets will be part of what’s cleaned up and sent back to them in their homes. 

Needless to say, residents are saying, “Ooh, ick!” to this idea, and many of them are planning on stocking up on bottled water for drinking and cooking. 

Wichita Falls’ mayor says the water is definitely clean and safe, and states that the majority of water that enters a wastewater plant does not come from a toilet; rather, it comes from sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, and dishwashers. The city has a campaign to explain to citizens the science behind the cleaning process, called “direct potable reuse.”  Currently, wastewater is treated and emptied into a reservoir where it goes through a natural cleansing process and it is again treated before using it.  The plant will simply speed up this process by treating the wastewater with chlorine to kill bacteria, rather than waiting several weeks for nature to do it.  The equipment blends the treated wastewater with their lake water; this mix gets more chlorine, advanced filtering, and reverse osmosis, which will eliminate unwanted materials, bacteria, and parasites.  The city has even set up a YouTube channel where residents can view a video explaining the process.  (Youtube/CityofWichitaFalls)

The City has put tons of hours of research into this project; everything has been cleared through the health board, doctors have reviewed this process and gave it the green light.  The recycled wastewater undergoes such a thorough cleaning process, it’s often more pure than the “non-recycled” tap water.  However, one of the most important factors of recycling wastewater is not the technology, but the public relations issue.  It’s a matter of residents getting over the “ick” factor that presents one of the biggest challenges for the city.  Here in Bismarck I drink straight from the tap, but if we went this route, that bottled water is starting to sound good.  What say you???  Source:  NPR