Although there has recently been more conversation on the subject (including a humorous segment with actor Jack Black in the documentary Last Call At The Oasis, where our opening quote comes from), reused water is mostly used for industrial and agricultural use and not used directly for drinking water, which accounts for only one percent of overall water consumption anyway. With 99 percent of water consumption being used for non-drinking purposes, you can get a good sense of the tremendous opportunity that lies in reusing water.
Water is reused in two main ways: direct reuse, which involves treating wastewater to a high level for agriculture and landscape irrigation, industrial use (such as cooling processes), toilet flushing and fire protection; and indirect reuse, which is treating wastewater to a high level and allowing it to percolate down to aquifers to replenish water sources. Direct reuse is already a widely accepted practice that will continue to grow, and indirect reuse is becoming an increasingly applied – and favored — method of reuse over discharging regularly treated wastewater into surface water, which ultimately evaporates or runs off into the ocean.
- Preserving existing supplies
- Protecting the environment by decreasing the amount of treated wastewater discharged into bodies of water
- Utilizing nutrients in the discharge as fertilizers in irrigation applications
- Increasing economical long-term water management solutions and energy efficiency
- Precluding the need to purchase from or draw upon new water sources