Recycling is something most people tend to associate with aluminum and paper products. However, did you know that water can also be reused? After its initial use, water can be treated and used again. Recycling water is a great way to save water and is being used all across the world with a number of benefits!
Meeting water demands – As population increases, so does the demand for fresh water. Water reuse can help meet water demands while reducing stress on existing surface and groundwater resources.
Agriculture and irrigation – Recycled water is most commonly used for watering landscapes, golf courses, and crops such as alfalfa, cotton, wheat and grain sorghum. Recycled water is especially useful in agriculture because it typically contains high levels of nitrogen and nutrients that are beneficial to non-food crops.
Drinking water – Dwindling water supplies have caused some towns, such as Big Spring and Wichita Falls, to incorporate reuse projects for municipal supplies. These plants treat wastewater effluent to meet drinking water standards. The Big Spring plant, operated by Colorado River Municipal Water District, is a long-term pilot project. However, the Wichita Falls project is utilized depending upon drought conditions.
What are the benefits of water reuse?
Decrease diversion of freshwater from sensitive ecosystems – Plants, fish, and wildlife all depend on an adequate supply of fresh water to live. By using recycled water, pressures on these ecosystems can be relieved. That can free up a considerable amount of water for vital and fragile ecosystems found in bays and estuaries.
Reduce and prevent pollution – Water reuse can help curtail pollutants that can be discharged into the ocean. Nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can act as fertilizer when added to water bodies. This can result in excessive algae growth that reduces oxygen levels in water.
Save energy – Any water treatment process takes a considerable amount of energy. Recycling water uses significantly less energy than other treatment options, such as desalination. Recycling water also reduces energy costs associated with pumping water through pipelines across long distances or pumping groundwater from aquifers.
How Cities are Using Recycled Water
Orange County, California – Nearly 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater is treated and reused in Orange County every day. The water goes through a three-step treatment process, and is disinfected with ultraviolet (UV) light before joining the groundwater supply through an injection well.
Windhoek, Namibia – One of the earliest water treatment projects, the operation has prevented water shortages and water-borne diseases. After only two years of operation, people who received water from Windhoek had a lower rate of disease than those supplied through conventionally- treated sources.
El Paso, Texas – Wastewater in El Paso is used to irrigate crops, fire protection and street sweeping, among other things. The current projects in El Paso provide water to schools, military bases, and the El Paso Zoo! The Fred Hervey Water Reclamation Plant in El Paso was the first in the nation to restore wastewater to national drinking water standards. The many projects have allowed for more than one billion gallons of water to be reused or returned to local aquifers in the past ten years alone.
Adelaide, Australia – During the past two decades, Adelaide has increased its water reuse from 11 percent to more than 30 percent. Use of recycled water has helped to improve the health of River Torrens and the water quality of Torrens Lake. Both are homes to many endemic species.