The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about reclaimed water (“A Tall, Cool Drink of…Sewage“). Reclaimed water is basically toilet water which has been recycled to the point where it is safe to drink. In many dry areas–such as my home of Southern California–the water supply is dwindling. To counter this, San Diego County is building the Western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant. Orange County, however, has decided to build a sewage-treatment plant near Fountain Valley to increase the supply of water available for OC residents.
Although there is a psycological aversion to water made from sewage, reclaimed water has been shown to be safer than bottled water.
“Yes, the water entering the sewage-treatment plant in Fountain Valley is 100 percent wastewater and has a T.D.S. — a measure of water purity, T.D.S. stands for total dissolved solids and refers to the amount of trace elements in the water — of 1,000 parts per million. But after microfiltration and reverse osmosis, the T.D.S. is down to 30. (Poland Spring water has a T.D.S. of between 35 and 46.) By contrast, the ‘raw’ water in the Anaheim basins has a T.D.S. of 600.”
This is why “environmentalists, river advocates and California surfers — the sort of people who harbor few illusions about the purity of our rivers and oceans — generally favor water recycling.”