It might seem like a question with a clear answer: why do we recycle wastewater? Even though the answer seems obvious, we still don’t rely on recycling water like we should. Too often we use water without thinking about what happens when we’re done with it. Where does the water go from the bathroom sink after you wash your hands? What about the runoff water absorbed into the ground when you wash your car in the front yard? And what about wastewater that you encounter every day on the job? We’re good at creating waste, but not so good at cleaning it up or disposing of it.
Water is a precious, limited resource, which is why recycling wastewater is crucial. You might be thinking, We are surrounded by water. Water is everywhere, it’s not limited. While it’s true that the planet is made up of about 70% water, it’s estimated that almost 98% of water is saltwater, and only about 1% of it is accessible for humans to use. If we’re not recycling the water we use, imagine how that percentage can change. We’re no longer only seeing water shortages in developing parts of the world.
Think about the oceanic oil pollution you’ve heard about on the news, and couple that with the untreated wastewater that is dumped into oceans daily. Wastewater doesn’t magically decompose. It might seem like no issue because saltwater isn’t drinkable anyway, but there is a noticeably negative impact on sea life, recently seen in the form of dead zones. A similar negative effect occurs in our freshwater sources. On the other hand, recycled wastewater leads to improved water and soil quality.
Transporting high volumes of wastewater is also highly expensive when considering transportation costs. If that water were to be recycled onsite, this cost could be greatly reduced. It’s also much more affordable to use treated wastewater than it is to utilize freshwater.
Recycling wastewater is our only option to lower the risk of water shortages and decrease the negative impact wastewater has already caused on the environment. Relying on recycled water provides countless other benefits, too, like allowing us to increase water flow to ecosystems to sustain wildlife, replenish groundwater, and limit the need for chemical fertilizers in irrigation systems. Electricity can even be generated from the water recycling process, and water recycling can help save energy and lower the cost of water.
Don’t be casual about water use and wastewater disposal. Follow wastewater treatment regulations and make recycling water part of your job.