Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Would You Drink Your Toilet Water?

Today, in the United States, it is Earth Day.  It's the day to think about the environment, and our impact on it.

Years ago, my spouse and I lived (for about eight months) in Wichita Falls, Texas, a city of about 104,000 about 10 miles south of the Texas/Oklahoma border.  It was an interesting experience but I have not been back since.

Today, I turned on the Weather Channel while preparing to go to work, and there was a fascinating discussion about a city so terribly impacted by drought, that they are trying to get state approval to capture and recycle their "potty water" (as they call it) and mix it in with reservoir water.

Turns out that city is Wichita Falls, Texas.

Things are desperate in Wichita Falls. They have been in a drought for some three years. Their reservoirs are hovering around 25% capacity.

So, are you grossed out by the thought of drinking your toilet water?

A couple of interesting thoughts.

I grew up in New York City.  To me, drinking water was something that came out of faucets.  My parents rarely took me out of New York City - for one thing, our family did not own a car. (Back when I grew up, this was not uncommon in New York City.)  In fact, I never saw a garden until I was 17 years old.  Really.

One day I found out our drinking water came from a place called the Croton Reservoir. As a teenager, I got to see this reservoir - a large lake.  And, I suddenly realized, there were FISH in this body of water.  Fish who ate, drank and...pooped.

I was drinking water with FISH POOP in it.

It wasn't long before I found out that was the least of my worries.  Many cities took their drinking water from rivers (such as Binghamton, New York, whose drinking water comes from the Susquehanna River.).  If your drinking water comes from a river, maybe you know that your drinking water contains wastewater (treated, you hope) from every city upriver from you.  And, in turn, the cities downriver of you are drinking your wastewater.

So many of us already drink toilet water indirectly.  The difference is, Wichita Falls wants to use this treated water directly, mixing it in with the fresh reservoir water, to make up about a third of their water usage.

Not a happy thought for Earth Day, is it?

Well, as it happens,  a lot of people are watching the Wichita Falls situation with a lot of interest.  Other cities are thinking of trying to pass legislation to allow direct usage of this formerly dumped resource.

After all, astronauts are already doing it.

The good citizens of Wichita Falls have dropped their water usage from about 40 million gallons a day to about 11-12 million gallons. But that just isn't enough.  So, besides the waste water recycling project, the city is going to try cloud seeding.  And, people are purchasing rainwater collection systems to try to capture whatever rain does fall.   But, to survive, they may be turning to toilet water.

We can't live without water.  Would you drink treated toilet water to survive?


  1. OMG.. Sick, we've really got to step our game and conserve our planet!

  2. To survive I guess I would drink toilet water, treated of course. What alternative does one have? Happy Earth Day!

  3. I've often wondered if folks would behave differently if they really had to be responsible for everything they used. What if no garbage, trash or sewage could leave your property? Would you buy things with less packaging if you had to dispose of it on your own land? Would you buy less, period? Would you figure out how to use your waste to your benefit (compost, composting toilet, etc.)? When water comes out of a faucet, people complain about rain instead of giving thanks. When the garbage man empties the trash cans, folks casually toss stuff in. But what if the consequences were a lot more personal?

  4. Such an interesting story. We are also in a huge drought here in California. We have well water, which also can be contaminated from all the stuff that gets dumped into the land. But if the situation is desperate, I'm sure most of us would drink toilet water. Wow, we really need to make sure we have the right kind of filters to purify our water as much as possible. Maybe we should be purifying our tap water anyways (after reading this). What is really in my water?

  5. You live in upstate NY? I do too. I have a feeling it's not as far north as me though...people seem to think Albany is upstate New York!
    Anyway, stopping by from "Ultimate Blog Challenge - Boost Your Blog Traffic" Facebook group.
    Stop by my blog if you get a chance :)

  6. Wow. What is this world coming to? Actually, I lived in the countryside for many years and they had cows upstream. We drank the well water so I often wondered what it was we were actually drinking. I had it tested though, and it was okay, thankfully. Happy Earth Day.

  7. Oh God what a horrible thought! *Shudders*


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