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Water Reuse Leads to Life- and Money-Saving Returns


March, 2017

M. DeHart

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Waste spills into rivers destroy the local ecosystems

Source: solarb via IMGUR

Wastewater Weight Outnumbers Humans 300 to 1

Water shortage is a major concern around the world. Population growth and urbanization has led to higher concentrations of people in smaller areas, and getting water to individuals is only part of the problem. The combined weight of the entire human population, two million tons, of sewage including industrial and agricultural waste are released into the world’s water supply every day. Over the course of a year, North America alone generates 85 billion tons of wastewater. Of the 85 billions tons, only 75% is treated and less than 4% of the treated wastewater is used. In essence, out of almost 20,000 gallons of wastewater produced annually, only 500 gallons are reused.

wastewater pollutes poor areas, leaving no fresh water to drink


Lack of Wastewater Treatment Costs Lives

With 71% of the world’s population suffering from drought every year, water treatment and reclamation has proven to meet growing water demands without exhausting current water supplies. At first the idea of reusing water may bring up memories of foul-smelling water spewing out of lawn sprinklers, but advanced technologies have been proven to purify wastewater to exceed drinking water standards. Presently, harmful bacteria created from wastewater has already had its share in killing and otherwise affecting millions of lives annually, with improper sanitation causing over 3% of deaths worldwide. In areas where drought or dense population is common, purification processes can be life saving. The World Water Quality Facts and Statistics from the Pacific Institute noted that “point-of-use drinking water treatment through chlorine and safe storage of water could result in 122.2 million avoided DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years, a measure of morbidity) worldwide.”

Some countries have already gone to great lengths in water reclamation. In Israel, 80% of household wastewater is recycled for agricultural use; and Spain leads Europe in wastewater reuse. California and Singapore are other areas of note in the water reclamation field, and steps have already been taken to educate the public on the benefits of recycled water.

Benefits of Water Reuse

Water reuse has impacts beyond recreating potable water. Pressure from rising climate change has scientists pushing for water purification and implementation. Fitting wastewater plants to proper reuse standards is crucial for reducing the amount of pollution unloaded into nature. Reclaiming water does not just save lives; the UN World Water Assessment Programme reported that for every $1 invested in sanitizing water for drinking purposes, the projected economic development return is $3-34.

When it comes to water reuse in daily lives, the facts show that not only is reclamation beneficial for the environment, but can also save lives while creating a positive economic impact. Educating the population and pushing the regular implementation of potable water recycling is of primary importance to improving multiple facets of daily life.

  1. American Association for the Advancement of Science via http://pacinst.org/app/uploads/2013/02/water_quality_facts_and_stats3.pdf
  2. http://www.ewra.net/wuj/pdf/WUJ_2014_08_07.pdf
  3. https://unu.edu/media-relations/releases/rising-reuse-of-wastewater-in-forecast-but-world-lacks-data.html


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