A massive water recycling proposal could help alleviate drought
Lake Mead, which provides water for 25 million people in the American West, has shrunk to 36 percent of its capacity. A rural California community has runs out of water after the well was opened in early June. Fields are lowered as farmers sell their water rations instead of growing crops, setting up the country’s food supply in danger.
As the West dries up under extreme drought, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have introduced HR 4099, a bill that would instruct the Secretary of the Interior to create a program to fund $ 750 million worth of water recycling projects in 17 western states by 2027. (The bill, which was presented at the end of June, is currently before the Committee of the House of Natural Resources.)
“This is starting to be our new rate – 88 percent of the West is under some degree of drought,” said Representative Susie Lee (D-Nevada), who presented invoice. “Lake Mead is at the lowest level it has been since the construction of the Hoover Dam. And the Colorado River has been in a drought for over two decades. ”
All the while, the population and economy in the western U.S. have flourished, putting tremendous pressure on a declining water supply. “I think we have more people – one. And there is an increase in the agricultural area – two, “said Representative Grace Napolitano (D-California), who introduced the bill.” And then climate change is exacerbating the problem. “
Part of the solution, lawmakers say, is to fund the construction of more facilities that can recycle sewage from our sinks, toilets and showers. You may think it ‘s gross and obscene, but technology already exists – in fact, it has existed for half a century. The process is actually quite simple. A treatment facility takes in wastewater and adds microbes that consume organic matter. The water is then pumped through special membranes that filter the shoots like bacteria and viruses. To be safer, the water is then sprayed with UV light to destroy germs. The resulting water may actually be also clean for human consumption: If you drank it, things can extract minerals from your body, so the device needs to add minerals again. (I once drank the final product. It tastes like… water.)
H recycled2O can be dumped underground in the aquifer, then extracted again when needed, cleaned once more and shipped to customers. Or it can be used locally for non-drinking purposes, such as agriculture or industrial processes.
Basically, you are taking wastewater that would normally be treated and discharged into the sea – really losing it – and putting it back in the terrestrial water cycle, making it available to humans again. “Part of what makes it so important as an element of water supply portfolios is its reliability,” says Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “To the extent that urban centers exist and produce polluted water, they can be treated. It provides a reliable source of additional water supply – even in dry years when supply is limited and the development of alternative sources would be difficult or impossible. “
Recycled water is also acceptable, in a sense: Injecting it underground to replenish aquifers saves it for use during droughts. This is likely to be particularly important in the American West because climate change is making droughts more punitive. AND futzing with rain dynamics. Modeling by climate scientists indicates that future storms will be more intense, but nevertheless arrive less frequently. And by the end of the century, mountain snow packing – which normally collects a lot of West water until it melts into the spring stream – is projected to shrink by about half.
“Our hydrological cycle will become more unpredictable,” says Rafael Villegas, program manager at OTHER operation at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy, which has been recycling water since the 1970s for non-potable reuse. “As the population grows, not just here in California, but where the water comes from – Nevada, Arizona and Northern California – you can expect there to be additional demand for those systems. So we’re at the bottom of the straw, right? We need to start thinking, how do we become more efficient with the water we have I DO do you have “