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29 comments

'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

Posted April 06, 2017 9:48 AM by HUSH

I like beer. Do you like beer?

What I like even more than beer is enjoying beer, which to me is an altogether different matter. This means summer evenings at the farm brewery. Seeking out new craft brands and bottles. Maintaining a modest homebrewing hobby. All while trying to be as non-judgmental as possible toward macrobrews.

Yet I might’ve avoided the limited run batch of Stone Brewing’s Full Circle Pale Ale had I the chance to try it. And that’s because this beer was brewed using recycled water.

Stone Brewing, based in San Diego, brewed Full Circle to highlight the city’s new water program called Pure Water. It is a pilot initiative that currently purifies one million of the 30 million gallons of wastewater San Diego produces each day. The hope is that eventually one-third of San Diego’s potable water supply will come from purified wastewater. It would be invaluable for a city that imports 90% of its tap water, due to droughts and an unwillingness to build desalination plants.

Reusing greywater and blackwater for a second time is not a new idea. Greywater is commonly reused for things like industrial washing or process water. Even blackwater has value in irrigation. But the idea of recycling toilet water for use as drinking water is, frankly, gross. And the fact that water recycling is sometimes called “toilet-to-tap” isn’t exactly a great marketing strategy.

You might be relieved to learn that only the idea of recycled water is gross. Stone Brewing actually had to add minerals back into the water they received from the Pure Water program, as it was too clean. The brewery had been using tap water with a total dissolved solids count of 300-600 parts per million. The purified wastewater had less than 100 ppm, so solids were added to the water to make it more like tap water.

Limited research indicates (.pdf) that recycled wastewater (water that has been through at least three stages of disinfection and purification) tends to have fewer contaminants than drinking water that has been through two stages of processing, the minimum according to U.S. law. The aversion to reusing wastewater as drinking water is almost purely psychological. Thirteen percent of people said they would never drink recycled water, even after learning about purification and sustainability.

Want more [anecdotal] proof? Watch Bill Gates challenge Jimmy Fallon to tell the difference between recycled water and bottled water.

Like it or not, wastewater reuse has been occurring in some locations for thousands of years. Often, a wastewater treatment plant discharges into a water source that is used as drinking water for another town downstream. The Hudson, Mississippi and Thames rivers are all examples of this, which is called indirect potable reuse. By the time a water molecule has reached New Orleans’ via the Mississippi, scientists estimate that five animals had previously consumed and urinated that molecule.

However, the city of San Diego has not begun pumping recycled water back in to the drinking supply, at least not yet. That doesn’t mean other cities aren’t considering it. After failed attempts at cloud seeding and evaporation repression, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, has been delivering ultra-clean recycled wastewater to residents’ taps since 2014. Other drought-stricken cities in Texas and New Mexico have followed suit, and there is a proposal to do the same in Los Angeles.

Residents who squirm at the idea of drinking recycled water might want to consider moving—or at least buying a Brita filter.

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#1

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 10:48 AM

All of the water (even the antarctic glaciers) and every element on this planet is recycled. On second thought there is a very tiny amount that could be considered as not recycled but separating those molecules that came from a recent comet passing will be very difficult to isolate.

I think I have a micro-brewing business opportunity for Mr. Musk and company. Ultra pure IPA made from pure harvested asteroid and comet water.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 2:11 PM

I recall reading that india pale ales got their name from long ship rides from England to India for British officers. These beers needed some extra hops to cope with flavor loss and to prevent spoilage.

My guess is Elon is already working on a zero-waste, interplanetary brewery. Spaceship Stout? Lunar Lager?

(Slightly related: Brewer's yeast that's been to space.)

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#3
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 2:17 PM

Arggh! Just my nut allergic luck that they'd use hazelnuts in the brew. I love most stouts, too.

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#4

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 3:00 PM

If we define waste as something that has no use to any human whatsoever, then there is no such thing as wastewater. Every drop of water on this planet has passed through another item of life, usually quite successfully.

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#5

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 5:12 PM

If it passes basic potability standards I could care less what my water was part of before.

Every atom of my body, and subatomic particle they are made of, has been through something someplace multiple times over in the last 14 - 15 billion years and will be though countless other who knows what's in the next however many billions of years more.

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#6
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 5:37 PM

True, all water has been recycled. It's the length of the cycles that concern most folks, or how long nature has had to remove the pollutants. A long enough cycle can obscure the reality that recycling is taking place.

Unfortunately, some situations like astronauts traveling to Mars do not permit long cycles. The squeamish need not apply.

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#26
In reply to #5

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 2:02 PM

the planet is roughly 4.3 billion years old.............confirming my thoughts that you're from out of this world since the place you hail from is 3-4 times older

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#28
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 4:08 PM

But the atoms and particles it and we are made of are presumed to have been around far longer than 4.5 Billion years. Roughly 3 - 4 times longer.

Or are you using my Exes logic that since she feels she is the smartest person on the planet yet I have proven I am smarter than her the only reasonable conclusion is I must not be from this planet?

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 8:35 PM

The hydrogen would likely be primordial. The oxygen from stellar nucleosynthesis; older than 4.5 gy and possibly as old as 13.7 gy.

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#7

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 7:34 PM

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#8

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 10:41 PM

" or at least buying a Brita filter " .

Maybe the author hasn't seen this review.

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 8:30 AM

Not sure what this post is about, but a pitcher type filter should only be used on city water that has been "purified" with chlorine. It is mostly a taste & odor filtration system using carbon as the filter media. It will remove lead, however the cartridge must be changed frequently as there is not very much media in these types of water filters. As for re-cycled water, I'm working with a company that can take your entire home wastewater and recycle it, or utilize the first phase and send it out to your lawn or garden. Out in the western states, particularly, this technology will find a home.

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#20
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 1:14 PM

For as long as the modern private sewage system has been in use many rural folks have had grey water pump systems installed at the end of their septic tank drain fields where they pumped the nitrate rich grey water out and watered their lawns and trees with it often achieving far more lush and green results than most city folks could achieve with store bought fertilizers and municipal water.

Sure it sometimes could smell a bit for a day or so afterwards but it gives needed nutrients to dry lawns plus kept the septic tank and overla sewage systems liquid levels at proper and healthy functioning values. Especially in ones that were either high usage with limited drain field capacity or that were in low permeability soils or that had high seasonal groundwater levels.

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#9

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/06/2017 11:21 PM

I would be more concerned with drugs and prions being in the water....

..."The sheer number of Americans taking drugs is one reason drugs in the water are a problem—60 percent of Americans now take prescription drugs. Direct-to-consumer drug (DTC) advertising has convinced millions of Americans to take statins, acid reflux medicines and assorted psychoactive medicines. Before DTC ads, the drugs were not nearly as popular. CNN reports that an astounding one fourth of U.S. women are now on antidepressants."...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion

https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/drugs-drinking-water-dont-ask-and-officials-wont-tell

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#10
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 7:41 AM

Why is anyone at all surprised that antidepressants are everywhere. This little jingle is over half a century old.

With a little effort one can find earlier tunes, too.

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#15
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 9:57 AM

Actually, I was ready to address this in the blog, but eventually I need to post it.

Only Half of Drugs Removed By Sewage Treatment

Environmental persistant pharmaceutical pollutants could be a blog post of its own.

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#21
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 1:16 PM

Yes it would seem that concentrating these substances in our water is not a good idea...but even more troubling is prions, they are more virulent and can have devastating effects at even low level contamination, add to this how little is understood about the nature of transmission and prevalence , and what we do know becomes terrifying....but what we do know is that if we don't find a way to control these threats, (ie: filter or eliminate) that the influence will steadily increase with population density, and the thought of dumping these substances right back into the human food chain just accelerates this process....

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#16
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 10:31 AM

CNN reports that an astounding one fourth of U.S. women are now on antidepressants."...

Methinks it is no accident that the evening news is sponsored by antidepressant makers. It's buying advertising where it will do the most good. Just an observation...

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#18
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 11:08 AM

Not to mentioned the side effects...

seems to be a meme for every situation

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#11

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 8:12 AM

I prefer my water filtered through a cow or a brewery just prior to my use of it.

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#14
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 8:52 AM

I prefer my water filtered through a cow or...

You are talking about the outlet from these faucets right?

Anyways, now that we are off topic,… a lot of people do not realize the value of urine. I recall when I was about 15-16 years old, when visiting a Amish farm for the farmer to take (2) of our Belgian Draft horse to work on to keep them in shape on our busy time were we didn’t have enough time for them. I was in their stables, and they had these troughs set up behind the mares.

When I asked about them, I guess there was a hormone in a pregnant mares urine where the Amish collect the urine from pregnant mares and sells it to the pharmaceutical companies.

I was surprised how profitable it was.

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#19
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 11:33 AM

Ancient Rome taxed urine as a commodity. It was used as a quenchant for hardening tool steel and for fullering fabric during laundering.

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#13

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 8:37 AM

What's with all the bodily-waste-related blog posts of late?

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#17

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 10:47 AM

I would say it depends on the process for purifying. Distilled? Pretty good. Filtered through 20 feet of sand like they do in PDX? Maybe not so good. We periodically get spikes of cyclosporidium. If prions were an issue, then what?

In Sherwood, Oregon we had a problem for a while with perchlorethylene in the groundwater and hexavalent chrome in the Multnomah County emergency backup wells. Every time it rained heavily, we had the potable water system shut down for e-coli in the well water at Trojan Nuclear Plant.

Large municipalities have enough trouble dealing with a "healthy most of the time" water supply. To specifically spike the system with a host of known and unknown nasties would likely push me away from potable tap water. Suppose some sicko flushed a couple of kilograms of LSD down the crapper?

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#22

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 10:54 PM

I once saw a documentary that indicated that the move to making of beer (historically) was because it's processing killed all the bad pathogens and cleaned up the waters otherwise used by citizens getting ill from the water piped into homes/inns/etc. This resulted in improved sanitary conditions and a move towards treatment of discharged waters.

Personally, if the water passes through a 0.5 micron filter, activated carbon filter and is treated with UV light, it is better than any tap water found.

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#24
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 4:30 AM

No, that was just a happy side effect... it started as a religious ritual of fasting by monks... the monks started making beer to help give them nitrition as they fast... and now they have resorts for these monks and religious leaders to,.... dry out.

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#27
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 2:49 PM

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#25
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Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/08/2017 4:32 AM

If memory serves me,... For culinary steam, it needs to pass through a 0.1 micron filter... but I no longer trust my memory. It has a mind of its own.

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#23

Re: 'Toilet-to-Tap' Water is Becoming Commonplace

04/07/2017 11:43 PM

When I was a kid I couldn't figure out why people would sprinkle this stuff on themselves.

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