We here in Detroit had far more rainfall this past summer than we usually get and between the long, cold winter and all the rain, our lake levels are nearing their normal levels. Meanwhile, in the southwest, drought conditions continue to grow. So much so that there’s a flurry of deeper well drilling in California. In Texas, some communities are installing mega-treatment and cycling water from their wastewater treatment plant back to their drinking water systems, under a trial permit. San Diego’s Sea World announced it was using treated saltwater in its toilets.
I’ve blogged about so-called “toilet-to-tap” before. At that point, it was more on the model of Orange County’s program – where treated water was discharged back into an aquifer from which drinking water was taken. That program is a way of speeding up the water cycle we all learned about in elementary school. Some call it “showers to flowers” and it is being expanded. In Texas, it looks like they are taking a more direct approach.
At least one gentleman I know has decried this as dangerous due to the possibility of industrial and other contaminants finding their way into the public’s drinking water. And, he’s right – there is a risk – but, as we have seen recently, there are risks to taking drinking water from a lake or river which receive runoff and NPDES discharges. Virtually all the water we see at the tap has been through a person’s body or has been impacted by some industrial or farming operation – it’s only a question of how much natural and professional treatment it receives prior to discharge, how long ago, how much dilution occurs and how much treatment before it’s put back into the drinking system.
The World Economic Forum has identified water as a key issue for the future. There simply isn’t much freshwater on the planet as this video shows. As the video shows, some 80% of our water gets used for power generation and farming. How we protect and conserve and, in some cases, recycle, this resource may be the story of the next 50 years.