A major US city will start drinking its own sewage. Others need to follow.News Type: Federal Source: Quartz
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It’s possible, a few decades from now, humans living in water-scarce places will find it ridiculous that we spent centuries just flushing away our watery sewage. Didn’t we know we could have been drinking it?
The idea of a closed-loop water system, in which we drink, expel, treat, and then drink again, is not new. The technology already exists to treat human wastewater to drinking water standards; water engineers call it by the polite (if euphemistic) name of “direct potable reuse.” But few city water utilities have been daring enough to try it on their customers, given its poor public image.
On the other hand, El Paso, Texas, a land of scarce rainfall—it’s drier than Windhoek, Namibia, the capital of the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa—is charging into potable reuse with near-religious zeal. The border city (population 700,000), which shares a river and groundwater with its sister city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has been building up to this moment for decades.