After writing about a desalination plant under construction in Adelaide, a reader pointed out to me that it would be much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly to recycle sewage and stormwater runoff.
A recent report investigating the viability of using treated sewage and piping it to reservoirs found that not only could 100 billion litres of drinking water be obtained from the treatment plant in question annually, but that it would cost about 60% of the price of building a seawater desalination plant producing the same amount.
I guess the biggest problem facing this sort of water reclamation is public perception. I’m sure desalination is a much easier sell to the electorate than is recycled pee.
Drinking what was someone else’s urine doesn’t really have me saying “yay team!” either, but I guess we need to face the facts that this sort of recycling may be the only option unless we want to end up like the characters in the book, “Dune“.
Dune was a series I read when I was a kid, and is still popular today from what I gather. Basically, it involves a desert planet called Arrakis where wealth is dictated in part by how much water you owned. The people of Arrakis wore “still suits” that recycle and filter their waste and perspiration into drinkable water. When someone dies, their water content is extracted and distributed to their relatives.
It all sounds pretty extreme and far fetched I guess, but is it? While Planet Earth has a stack of water, easily accessible potable (drinking) water is comparitively scarce, and getting scarcer due to global warming and other forms of human interference with water systems. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has warned that within the next two decades, 66% of the earth’s population could face serious water shortages
Maybe it’s time that we all started rethinking some of these “icky” solutions to what is looking to be a major challenge for humanity in the not too distant future; after all, water is something that we can hardly do without.