A couple of quick things that bug me about the recycled water “debate”.
- Sewage water is not the only water that can be recycled;
- That said, sewage water can be treated to be better than tap water;
- We don’t need to drink the result – it can be used for industrial use, or of non-potable uses (toilets, watering gardens etc.)
We keep seeing headlines that say “we’d be prepared to drink recycled sewage”, but that’s only one small part of the story. Even so, 75%+ of Australian’s would accept it according to the polls. Other reports show recycling is cheaper than desalination.
Regardless of what happens with desalination plants we need to start recycling, and the state governments need to start taking action now. Legislating that new buildings, especially apartments, be double piped is an important start. That means that new buildings will be ready for recycling – properly separating grey-water from sewage, and allowing recycled water to be used for non-potable purposes. (Being piped to support rain water tanks also would be an even better option.)
At the time of construction, the additional cost will be much lower than retrofitting – which is one of the reasons cited for not going ahead with recycling at present. Remove that barrier for the future. I suspect that the costs will be quite low – possibly a few thousand dollars for most dwellings. Does anyone know how much it would cost?
Even if the cost was a bit more than that, the government could even subsidise it in some way (by reducing rates for a period or with a simple cash incentive) – putting $$ up-front for a reduced cost down the line.
I do hope the debate moves on from here. Recycling must be part of the solution. Governments need to get serious, and stop wasting money on desalination plants that its own advisors say will be more expensive and less effective than recycling.
Update: Vincenze makes another good point – drinking water is only a small part of the water we use – and ends with this fun tidbit: “We should recycle water, but not pee.” Indeed 😉