From Earth one million years ago to today, various states of water travel continuously from reservoir to reservoir. This process, known as the water cycle, constantly reuses and repurposes the vital resource. Increasingly, mankind also recycles water in order to benefit the environment and better utilize our resources. We can implement water recycling into our lives in more ways than one, both individually and as a society.
What is water recycling?
Do you think of bottles, cans, or paper when you think of recycling? The same concept applies to water recycling, the process of taking wastewater, treating it, and repurposing it. You can find treated wastewater in agricultural irrigation, landscaping, toilet flushing, and in ground water basins. More innovative water recycling ideas spring up every day.
Generally, we break down water recycling into two categories:
Projects we develop specifically to implement a recycled water supply. One example is rainwater harvesting, or directing the flow of rainwater into a storage container for future use.
Water recycled for practical uses. For instance, when cities draw water from rivers, treat it, and reuse it for drinking water among other things.
How does it benefit us?
After years of testing and research, most recycled water is now pathogen-free and even safe to drink. As long as we properly treat it, recycled water benefits us in a myriad of ways, including:
- It generates other resources.
The process of water recycling creates electricity and soil amendments, which we can put toward other aspects of life.
- It saves us money.
Recycling our water decreases our reliance on expensive imported water. It also provides our drinking water supply at a lower cost.
- It helps us meet rising water demands.
As the population grows, demand for our limited resources increases. Water recycling makes our water supply stretch further.
- It improves our quality of life.
Due to its positive environmental impact, recycling water keeps public parks and other community areas green and beautiful.
How does it benefit the environment?
- It increases freshwater flow to ecosystems.
When we divert freshwater from the habitats of plants, wildlife, and fish for agricultural or industrial purposes, we disrupt their ecosystem. Reusing the water we already have lessens our reliance on freshwater diversion.
- It lessens wastewater discharge into natural freshwater bodies.
- It reduces pollution.
Some substances in our water discharge, such as nitrogen, benefit us when used agriculturally, but have negative consequences when dispersed into other bodies of water.
- It revamps wetland habitats.
We can repair some of the damage done by diversion from freshwater bodies by adding recycled water to their natural water flow. The ecosystems of wetlands particularly benefit from this.
The future of water recycling
Now we mostly use recycled water as a non-potable (non-drinking) resource for agricultural and industrial purposes, but in the future, we will utilize it as potable (drinking) water more and more. Personal or smaller-scale practices like rainwater harvesting, as well as using recycled water for gardening and in toilets, will probably increase too.
While recycling water saves money in the long term, it may be costly to build the necessary systems to both treats and distribute the water on a larger scale. Some companies and governments may resist the idea, so if you believe in the benefits of recycled water, do your best to advocate for and educate about the process.
Also, the more you can increase your own awareness of how much and how often you are using water, the better. As climate change becomes an increasing problem, every little change makes a difference.