As cities grow, wastewater recycling gets another look
DENVER — Around the U.S., cities are increasingly warming to an idea that once induced gags: Sterilize wastewater from toilets, sinks and factories, and eventually pipe it back into homes and businesses as tap water.
In the Los Angeles area, plans to recycle wastewater for drinking are moving along with little fanfare just two decades after similar efforts in the city sparked such a backlash they had to be abandoned. The practice, which must meet federal drinking water standards, has been adopted in several places around the country, including nearby Orange County.
“We’ve had a sea change in terms of public attitudes toward wastewater recycling,” said David Nahai, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The shifting attitudes around a concept once dismissively dubbed “toilet to tap” come as dry regions scramble for ways to increase water supplies as their populations boom and climate change intensifies droughts. Other strategies gaining traction include collecting runoff from streams and roads after storms, and stripping seawater of salt and other minerals, a process that’s still relatively rare and expensive.