Traditional water sources worldwide, such as natural snow and rainfall basins, are declining as the climate continues to change faster than anticipated.
The water reservoir – a staple piece of water infrastructure that has been used consistently and globally, is now being labelled ‘the dinosaur’ of today’s infrastructure systems. Nobody will build any more of them because there isn’t enough water to fill them – their extinction is imminent.
Water infrastructure management planners are now looking for more unconventional but ultimately more sustainable methods of maintaining a supply of fresh drinking water for the world’s ever-growing population.
Many ideas and solutions have been floated, with conversations ongoing about rainwater catchment – which is being implemented with good results in Texas, brackish desalination – which in any way it is looked at is too expensive to be viable long term, and direct potable reuse – also known colloquially as toilet-to-tap.
The Quartz Africa reports on toilet-to-tap and its pros and cons:
“In Namibia, the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the capital city Windhoek has been doing “toilet-to-tap” for so long that several generations of residents don’t bat an eye at drinking the stuff. The city has been turning raw sewage into drinking water for 50 years. Windhoek has never had a single illness attributed to the reclaimed wastewater.
“Public confidence is that very, very fragile link that keeps the system going,” Pierre van Rensburg, Windhoek’s strategic executive for urban and transport planning, told the American Water Works Association, an international nonprofit, in 2017. “I think if there is ever one incident that could be linked back to the direct potable reuse plant, the public will lose all confidence.”
Regions that have adopted toilet-to-tap as a water solution agree that the biggest challenge is overcoming the psychological associations people end up having when imagining that their drinking water came from sewage.
The water itself tastes like any other bottled water and is perfectly safe for human consumption.
Big Spring, Texas, has been using toilet-to-tap water as drinking water since 2014, the border city of El Paso has started too.
Both American cities are optimistic about overcoming the ‘disgust’ factor as their citizens have positively responded to this solution.