Drought brings 'toilet to tap' to fore

Aug. 23, 2011 at 12:03 PM
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BIG SPRING, Texas, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Drought in the U.S. West is leading many cities to join a growing trend of using recycled sewage water for drinking water -- a practice dubbed "toilet to tap."

Big Spring, Texas, is building a $13 million wastewater-to-drinking water treatment plant that, beginning next year, will produce 2 million gallons a day of drinking water from wastewater produced by area residents.

Such plants are not new, experts say.

"It's really a natural and cost-effective [solution] when you don't have another resource available," David Sedlak, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Christian Science Monitor.

"We have to recognize that as the population of the country continues to move out into the West and as climate change continually reduces the water supply, these issues are going to become more and more important."

The Texas plant will provide drinking water to Big Spring and three nearby communities, Stanton, Midland and Odessa.

"The neat thing about it is that we'll be able to use 100 percent of the water, 100 percent of the time," said John Grant, general manager of the Colorado River Municipal Water District, which serves Big Spring.

Grant says public response to the "toilet to tap" strategy ranges from "There's no way I'm going to drink this" to "Why haven't y'all done this sooner?"

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