The process of recycling effluent water and should we drink it?
Many countries around the world are facing a water crisis. For example, The Western Cape in South Africa is currently working through their worst drought in over a century. So when it comes to saving water, recycling water or finding a way to keep up with the water demands of societies and industries, it can be quite a tough job.
But there are a variety of water processes that come to aid in the time of crisis. A popular (and expensive) one we’ve all heard of is desalination, but we will be talking about another potable water process. And that is the recycling of effluent water and distributing it back to the city as clean and usable water. Before we discuss the process, let’s define what effluent water is exactly.
Effluent water is an umbrella term for wastewater or sewage that is excreted from a source (usually as a result of an industrial, commercial or household activity) into the ocean or a river. Basically, it’s not anything you want to be drinking before any treatment processes.
The water recycling process
There are different methods of treating effluent water. And we’ll be exploring some of those stages of the water recycling process which water treatment specialists like PROXA Water, for example, are to follow.
The screening process: The treatment starts with a screening process where the effluent water is filtered in order to remove large foreign objects from the body of water. Depending on the source of the effluent, this could include things such as plastic items, sanitary items, cotton buds, material, stones and sand.
Primary treatment: With the obvious elements removed from the water, it goes into the primary treatment phase where the human waste element can be removed from it. This happens within a settlement tank that allows solids or sludge to sink to the bottom of the tank. This sludge is then frequently scraped off the bottom of the tank and pumped for further anaerobic treatment while the rest of the water is sent for secondary treatment.
Secondary treatment: To treat the remaining contaminants in the water, secondary treatment makes use of aeration where bacterial microorganisms digest what’s left of the organic matter. After secondary treatment, the water is deemed clean enough to be pumped back into the rivers.
Tertiary treatment: In some cases, there will be a tertiary treatment or disinfection process after secondary treatment. This stage can include another settlement tank, passing through a sand filter and possibly a denitrification or dechlorination process.
The entire water recycling and treatment process ensures that any harmful contaminants are completely removed from the water source to secure it as clean water that can be released for public use again. And if it doesn’t go back into the municipal water system, it can be reused in the environment to maintain habitats or back into the commercial or agricultural sectors.
And in the season of a drought, countries cannot undervalue the aid that recycled water brings during a water crisis. Recycling water is a great way to appreciate and make the most of the limited resource. It’s arguably a process that should be in constant production and not only in the time of a water crisis. It’s a process that creates clean and potable water from the type of water that has the potential to kill those who drink it. Which leads us to the question of should we then drink recycled water based on its pre-treated source?
Should we drink it?
There is a good chance that you have, at some point in your life, consumed recycled water. And because it’s a process which many societies rely on in order to exercise their basic right to clean water, it must be safe to drink. Here are a few reasons why recycled water is safe option.
Namibia has been recycling effluent water into drinking water for over 50 years and has relied on this water supply to get through some of their toughest droughts. There has never been a problem with the recycled water.
It doesn’t taste any different to “normal” municipal water and, in some cases, is regarded as cleaner than municipal water. It will never not be safe to drink because of the safety regulations that are required before redistribution.
It allows the town, city and country that adopt this practice to add to the sustainability of the earth’s limited water resource. Reusing recycled effluent water is, therefore, an environmentally friendly practice.
It’s cheaper than other water sources but not because of quality standards. We’ve already established that recycled water is considered cleaner and sometimes tastier than municipal water.
People need to get over the stigma around effluent water and start taking advantage of the safe, drinkable and completely-good-for-you water.