Climate Change Brings About a Need to Look at Recycling Water

You’ve probably heard all about Lake Mead in the news. After reaching unheard of depths after years of drought conditions, two bodies and several sunken boats have been discovered in areas that used to be underwater. In areas like California and Arizona, drought conditions are drying up water sources and leading to grave concerns.

Weather patterns are changing. Areas that used to see rainfall or snow are experiencing droughts. Temperatures are going up, leading to unusually long droughts. It’s causing problems around the world, and experts are trying to figure out how to keep water from running out.

Water Shortages Around the World

Every continent is experiencing water shortages. It’s not just something happening in drier, hotter climates. As populations grow and temperatures increase, more water is being used than is being replenished. It takes a slow soaking rain to refill underground water sources like springs or gullies. These headwaters are where a river begins. Heavy rainfall may create quick, flooding water, but it will flow downstream before it helps replenish groundwater.

  • In Tulare County, California, dairy farms are digging their wells deeper and deeper to reach the groundwater. This is affecting neighbors with shallower drilled wells as they’re finding their own wells running dry.
  • Orange County in California found another problem happening. The draw on aquifers was so much that water from the ocean was able to seep in. They feared people would refuse to touch water that originated in a sewage treatment plant, but it was the only solution they could see.
  • In March, Governor Newsom signed an executive order banning well-drilling permits for any agricultural or industrial entity. In his executive order, he pointed out that water storage levels in Central Valley and Santa Clara Valley’s shared water reservoir are over 1 million acre-feet lower than in the prior year.
  • In Monterrey, Mexico, drought conditions led to city officials restricting residential water use to the hours of 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Those six hours a day are all that the city’s 5.3 million people will be allowed to access. The hope is that this will help protect the city’s water supply.
  • The Californian town of Cambria announced in 2021 that after almost 40 years of depleting the town’s two primary water sources, they were almost out of water. As a level-four (of five) emergency was declared, residents were asked to cut water consumption by almost half. Plus, growth for this community was halted.
  • For some, that meant their applications to build on lots they own that already have water meters in place are being denied. Like many towns, Cambria is trying to figure out how to ensure community members can access water in their homes and businesses.
  • Las Vegas and Los Angeles are touted as an example of what communities can do. The city’s developers planned in advance. For decades, the city’s water system looked at water recycling and storage systems in the mountains as measures to take to prevent shortages. Plus, they request that people avoid outdoor watering to lower the demand on the city’s supplies during a drought.
  • Las Vegas pushes water recycling. Many of the resorts’ pools, fountains, and showers are designed to reuse water to lessen the draw on public water sources. Residential homes in Las Vegas no longer have grass. To prevent the need for watering lawns, artificial turf is used instead.
  • Melbourne, Australia, experienced a severe drought from 1997 to 2009. During part of that time, the city’s population also increased by over a million people. Water use increased by more than 10% in five years. During that time, the city added water recycling plants to try to lessen the demand for public water supplies.

Water recycling is the wave of the future. Some cities and districts are discovering the benefits. It’s time you did, too. It’s the best way to lower the demand on lakes, rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water. Has your industrial or agricultural business or wastewater district considered the benefits of wastewater recycling? It’s time.

What Is Wastewater Recycling?

Wastewater recycling is an act where you clean and reuse water. Any homeowner that has barrels under gutters and uses that rainwater to water vegetable gardens is recycling water. On a grander scale, a water treatment plant can clean, disinfect, and return wastewater to a community’s water supply.

Across the country, municipal water supplies draw from a lake or river, clean the water, and send it to tanks for the public water system. Residents and business owners draw from those tanks every time they flush a toilet, do the laundry, take a shower, wash dishes, etc. The average person uses 101.5 gallons of water per day. It’s a lot of water being taken from water bodies.

Take Boston, Massachusetts, and the city’s population of 696,959. In one day, the average use means more than 70 million gallons of water are used. That’s one day! By the end of a year, more than 25 billion gallons of water are pulled from municipal water sources.

While many water treatment plants clean water coming from septic systems and sewers and return that water to local bodies of water, the water could go right into storage tanks to be used over and over. That reduces the draw of water from the usual sources like lakes and rivers.

How Does Water Recycling Work?

The Orange County Water District’s water recycling plant was developed back in the 1970s. Today, it generates about 35 million gallons of drinking water each day but can produce as much as 100 gallons. It’s slated to undergo an expansion in 2023, enabling the system to create 130 million gallons of public water each day.

How does it work? Wastewater goes from the wastewater treatment plant to the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS). There it goes through five steps.

  1. Pre-Purification

After going through screening, grit chambers, filters, activated sludge, clarifiers, and final disinfection, the treated wastewater is pumped to the GWRS division. The wastewater is tested to ensure it meets the requirements after leaving the wastewater treatment plant.

  1. Microfiltration

As long as the treated wastewater meets the requirements, the water goes through microfiltration. Water passes through very thin straw-like fibers through tiny holes. Those holes capture any bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and microscopic solids.

  1. Reverse Osmosis

Once the water passes through the microfiltration step, it goes into reverse osmosis membranes to remove any pharmaceuticals and dissolved chemicals. After this process, the water is cleaned to a point that it’s similar to distilled water. To stabilize it, minerals must be added back in.

  1. UV Lights

Hydrogen peroxide and UV lights are the final step in disinfecting and killing off any remaining organics that got through the other stages.

  1. Water Delivery

Now that the water is completely clean and safe for drinking, it’s pumped into injection wells to prevent saltwater seepage and the rest recharges the basins. It filters through the sand and gravel to replenish the groundwater basins where public water is drawn from.

The wave of the future will be recycling water like Orange County is doing. Reusing water that’s consumed is key. Is your district considering taking this step? Reach out to Lakeside Equipment to learn more about the right pumps and biological treatment systems needed to replenish city water supplies with treated wastewater.