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Report from the National Research Council on Reuse of Municipal Wastewater

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council evaluates the reuse of treated wastewater and considers the use of reclaimed water as a means to augment drinking water supplies to help meet future needs. The report examines a wide range of reuse applications beyond potable water, including non-potable urban and industrial uses, irrigation, groundwater recharge, and ecological enhancement.

Many communities have already implemented water reuse projects such as irrigating golf courses and parks or providing industrial cooling water. These are generally well accepted but potable reuse still presents a challenge. Direct potable water reuse accounts for only a small fraction of the volume of water currently being reused. However, there are a number of positive factors to consider. The levels of chemicals and microbes in reuse projects designed to supplement drinking water supplies can be equal to or even lower than those commonly found in many natural drinking water sources which may contain wastewater that was discharged upstream. There are a number of wastewater treatment technologies for mitigating chemical and microbial contaminants in reuse projects. These treatment processes can be used to tailor wastewater reclamation plants to meet the quality requirements of the intended reuse.

The committee emphasized the need for adequate process control and monitoring to ensure that all reclaimed water meets the appropriate quality objectives for its use. Water reuse regulations differ by state. Changes to the federal regulatory framework could help support reuse by ensuring public health protection, providing a minimum level of protection nationally, and increasing public confidence. The report also lists areas of research that would help guide the country on the proper application of water reuse.

You can read the full report on-line or a prepublication copy of the report can be downloaded free of charge at the National Academies’ Press website at http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13303.