The future of water is … sewage?

Treating sewage is a cost-effective way to make tap water. But can Americans get over the yuck factor?


May 21, 2021

Are we ready for ‘toilet to tap’ drinking water?

Your dog loves drinking out of the toilet, why shouldn’t you? Well, you actually can with some added filtration steps.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Vanderbilt professor Amanda Little pushes for the US to get on board with recycled sewage, sometimes called “toilet to tap.”

What the heck is ‘toilet to tap’?

It’s recycled wastewater from sources like showers, toilets, and dishwashers that undergoes a multistep filtration process. It’s both clean and safe to drink.

In fact, Orange County Water District Manager Mike Markus told CBS in 2015 that its Fountain Valley plant — which treats 100m gallons a day — was the cleanest in the entire state of drought-stricken California.

But people still don’t like it because of what psychologists call

The Yuck Factor

Back in 1993, there was a plan to pump reclaimed water to drinking supplies in the San Gabriel Valley.

But it garnered enemies, including Miller Brewery, who had a nearby plant and worried consumers would be put off. The term “toilet to tap” actually originated during this squabble — and the plan never happened.

Then in 2015, SoCal announced another recycled wastewater project, and people were still reluctant. Only this time, Jon Stewart mocked people who thought recycled water is gross.

This is the way

Little thinks recycled wastewater is the future. While some water-treatment plants work by taking salt out of ocean water, that’s over twice as expensive.

According to the professor, it’s time to expand infrastructure beyond California. There is a nicer term, btw: “showers to flowers.”

And as for beer? A Swedish brewery made a wastewater Pilsner

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