The Beauty of Reclaiming Water

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Since the beginning of days humans have always tried to imitate nature, both in real life and in mythology (e.g. Daedalus and Icarus trying to imitate the flying of the birds).  As technology advances, many advances return back to the concept of imitating nature in order to preserve a balance on earth. For example, the industrial and municipal water cycle are now being adapted to reuse wastewater. Water reclamation is a reflection of water’s value and increasing scarcity in many parts of the world – there simply isn’t enough fresh water to meet demands. In water reclamation, we emulate Mother Nature, where water is recylced and reused on a global scale. In fact, with the current technology we can do it faster and better.

Water reclamation is the treatment of wastewater to make it reusable. The idea is that for some uses, like watering the lawn or some industrial uses, water does not need to be as clean as for others, such as drinking. Water reclamation can also mean that water is treated from toilet to tap, like in Singapore, where wastewater undergoes reverse osmosis and is immediately recycled. Further opportunity exists in reclaming minerals from wastewater, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are valuable for agriculture.

As is expected, there is only minor resistance to reuse the water for non-potable uses. However, reuse of wastewater for potable uses faces a challenge to gain public acceptance.  The idea of water reclamation may prove to be a more achievable goal for developing countries, who cannot afford to treat all wastewater to high standards.In developing countries, where the cost to obtain high level of treatment is not economically feasible, the best way to treat waste water is to clean it to a certain degree that allows to use it in specific purposes.There is also money to be saved in developed countries, where we must ask ourselves if there is a real reason for spending all this energy and money in treating water that meets drinkable safety standards in order to release it to the environment?

So, if there is a way of treating the water for different uses, why not to take advantage or the situation? Perhaps, treat the wastewater with the objective of retain high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen which help fertilize agricultural plants when used for irrigation. To illustrate this point, we talked with Dr. Blanca Elena Jimenez, researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM, by its acronym in Spanish) at the World Water Forum at Marseille. She explains that Mexico is a country that would extensively benefit from reclaiming water for agricultural purposes.

See also Student Reporter Eva Papadimas’s post about the Mediterranean Diet:

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  1. Pingback: Distinguishing different water qualities: Interview with Ger Bergkamp of IWA | Studentreporter

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