Varsha Sivagurunathan

Recycled water for drinking, or “the drinking water of the future” has been in use in multiple countries and cities around the world – Singapore, Namibia, Perth, and San Diego. In San Diego, a simple water treatment system purifies wastewater into water fit for drinking. The water is first purified with ozone, pumped through filters packed with coal granules, passed through fine membranes, purified with UV light and then minerals are added to it.  

Like a lot of cities around the world, San Diego - and the rest of Southern California—are facing a water security crisis. With increased temperatures, extreme weather events such as droughts, water scarcity is an imminent threat in a warming climate. So the city of San Diego aims to provide more than 40% of water by from local sources by reusing recycled water by 2035. Diversification of water sources is the key strategy. With a bigger facility producing 20 million gallons of water per day planned for 2025, the water recycling revolution has just begun.

Recycled water for drinking is a “powerful hedge against drought”. Policy makers and community continuity to show hesitation for recycled water for drinking. The “yuck” factor is often cited as a barrier for recycled water for drinking. With the technology in use for over 50 years, it is safe to say that this water is pure. Recycled water for drinking is an investment for an increasingly uncertain future, and it is time that more cities in Australia also come on board.

Through interviews of 20 sitting politicians and water practitioners in New South Wales, Australia, a new paper from the University of NSW (Sivagurunathan et al., 2021) explores the underlying perceptions of the viability of potable water reuse for Sydney in decision-making practices to explore how politics and water management expertise can come into conflict. Check out this amazing article here to learn more.

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