Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dirty Water

The thought of drinking water that was once wastewater evokes the same reaction from almost everyone. Not gonna happen. Even if you could be convinced of the science, the chances are that you are still repelled by the very idea of drinking water that was once in somebody's toilet or shower. You are not alone.

That drives engineers nuts. The treated wastewater is as good as any water, even better than some they’ll tell you. Environmentalists generally support water reuse too.

The water is fine its the drinkers that need treatment. Time to bring in the psychologists. In this story by Alix Spiegel on NPR’s Morning Edition last week, psychologist Carrol Nemeroff explains “that once something has had contact with another thing, their parts are in some way joined.”

"If I have my grandmother's ring versus an exact replica of my grandmother's ring, my grandmother's ring is actually better because she was in contact with it — she wore it. So we act like objects — their history is part of the object."

In the case of wastewater, that history is pretty gross.

"But as Nemeroff points out, there is a certain irony to this position, at least when viewed from the perspective of a water engineer. You see, we are all already basically drinking water that has at one point been sewage. After all, "we are all downstream from someone else," as Nemeroff says. "And even the nice fresh pure spring water? Birds and fish poop in it. So there is no water that has not been pooped in somewhere."

Right after I heard this segment I saw Tim Gallagher at the Coloseum Gym and asked him about it.

“Could you ever see yourself drinking treated wastewater, even if it was proven to be safe?”

“No way!”
blog comments powered by Disqus