From Sewage Water into Drinking Water: Impact of Droughts

Do you want this to become this?

toothbrush under water   toiletbowl

Beginning by recycling 5 million gallons of a water a day, Wichita Falls, Texas is waiting for the approval to treat sewage water – water from your toilets and other sewage waste – and convert it into pump water for residents. In essence, sewage water will be treated with “safe chemicals” and reverted into drinking water for communities. Wichita Falls is the first U.S. city to try and get this cycle approved, but it will not be the last; there are other localities considering the same approach as a result of the ever-increasing water scarcity problems the world is facing. Texas is currently facing the worst drought recorded in over 140 years, with two thirds of the state in drought conditions. More cities in the South West United States will soon face the decision to reuse and recycle sewage water due to  greater risks of drought and the continued scarcity of water in the area.

Joseph Cortruvo, along with many other advocates for this process, say that this is a safe process. Residents have a different opinion, refusing to see "recycled" sewage water as safe to drink. Despite opposition, advocates continue to release promotional videos and pictures on how recycling sewage water is a positive and safe way to decrease water scarcity issues across the globe.

man watching water from large pipe flow into a large body of water


How will they be treating the water?

Darrell Preston explains, saying “Sewage first would go to a plant that removes solids, the same way it’s now treated before sending it into the Wichita River. Next, microfiltration to remove waste, and then reverse osmosis to remove contaminants, including pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilet. In the final step, the discharge goes to the same plant that cleans lake water, where it’s treated chemically to remove pathogens. Add chlorine and fluoride, and it goes straight to the faucet.”

Where else in the world is this already happening?

Astronauts in the International Space Station will reuse their toilet water and turn it into drinking water, and this has been happening for a long time. This is not the only place; in Israel, over half of the water used in agriculture is recycled and treated sewage. These places are not recycling it directly, but treating the water. There are only very few places globally where the sewage water is recycled directly – including Windhoek, Namibia.

diagram of water purification flow

Treatment Plant Diagram (EPA)


Heather Heffner

Last Updated: May 31, 2017