Wastewater Reuse


If you take apart the main components of wastewater, you’ll find Water and Biomass. Water is scarce and very valuable while biomass can make fuel that is also valuable. Because of the abundance of wastewater and sewage, it could answer one of the world’s biggest problems we face today but How Can Wastewater Be Reused?

Wastewater can be Reused first by:

  • Harvesting the Graywater with a process called Phytoremediation Treatment that uses plants to naturally purify sewage 
  • Standard treatments-Primary-Secondary & Tertiarily
  • Microfiltration
  • Reverse Osmosis-(RO)
  • UV light 
  • High Heat Systems that purifies water & generates energy.

More than 2 billion people across the world are affected by not having access to clean water or proper sanitation, resulting in the death of over 700,000 children each year. Cleaning contamination in Wastewater could be part of the solution for new sources of clean drinking water.

 Is Water Recycled Pee?

A big area of the earth doesn’t have what we have, clean sanitation, clean drinking water, and a system of infrastructure that includes pipes coming and going delivering drinking water and taking away waste to be treated. No matter the condition of our infrastructure today, it would be almost impossible to build a new one even for a country like ours.

Our infrastructure was built 100 years ago and is in desperate need of attention. It may be possible to fix it as we need to and continue to use it but for most countries, it just doesn’t make sense to replicate it.

The new processes that modern technology provide, smaller more efficient, and less costly ways can take wastewater one step further and produce a valuable supply of usable and even purer water than it was before. Not only making drinking water, where it is desperately needed but using a self-sustaining process that can run on the energy that it produces itself.

Wastewater treatment which uses Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary treatments simply remove solids, chemicals, and anything else that doesn’t belong in purified water. This can be done on a large scale with huge tanks and filters that biologically, physically, and chemically clean water. That’s how we do it here and in Europe and places that can afford the energy cost that is necessary for these plants to run.

There are different types of efficient treatment solutions that can use less energy but need large spaces for a natural process. They can be found where water is scarce like in the Middle East, or California in the States. We have had processes, and the ability of Advanced wastewater treatment called Tertiary treatment for some time now.

In days before the modern Clean Streams Water Act in 1972, there was a saying that “the Solution for Pollution was Dilution”

As the years went by, this attitude caught up to us.  Water became much more important. The conditions of streams, groundwater, and advancement in the science of analyzing chemical compounds, along with the disappearing of what we thought were endless supplies of water, became shockingly apparent.

What is apparent now is that wastewater itself can be used to provide energy, irrigation and even drinking water in places that need to harvest it. We have the technology and the knowledge to implement it.

Sewage treatment can come in smaller packages using less energy by separating the resources from it, and using them in a sustainable manner as we do in other recycling operations. The new problems like Water Scarcity that we will be facing in the future will demand we do this. The world is smaller and more crowded.

There is a lot of water on earth, in fact, it’s the same amount that we had when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. But it is dangerously scarce in some regions and abundant in others for many reasons.

The caveman that was peeing in the stream he was drinking from never had a second thought about it. But millions of years later, we are all drinking his pee whether you can fathom that thought or not, water is limited. 

Harvesting sewage effluent that has always been dumped in rivers and streams only to be pumped back out a few miles downstream to be treated as drinking water or for irrigation and farming could be a huge benefit. On-site wastewater treatment that is available is a huge idea whose time has come. These methods are needed in places like India and Africa where water and energy don’t exist. They are needed now!

 Being water and energy efficient provides a wide range of benefits—for utilities, consumers, businesses, and the community as a whole. Using less water means moving and treating less water, which helps reduce the strain on water supplies and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

Delivering water and wastewater services is also energy-intensive, as the water is treated, pumped to homes and businesses, then pumped to wastewater facilities to be treated again. EPA estimates 3 to 4 percent of national electricity consumption, equivalent to approximately 56 billion kilowatts, or $4 billion, is used to provide drinking water and wastewater services each year.

Water and wastewater utilities are typically the largest consumers of energy in municipalities, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed. Implementing energy efficiency measures at water sector systems can significantly reduce operating costs. From The EPA

 

Greywater Recycling System

 

Wastewater treatment can be tailored to meet the water quality requirements of a planned reuse. Recycled water for landscape irrigation requires less treatment than recycled water for drinking water. No documented cases of human health problems due to contact with recycled water that has been treated to standards, criteria, and regulations have ever been reported. There is some risk. As long as the Graywater is handled properly there should be no problems using it in:

  • agriculture
  • landscape
  • public parks
  • golf course irrigation
  • cooling water for power plants and oil refineries
  • processing water for mills, plants
  • toilet flushing
  • dust control,
  • construction activities
  • concrete mixing
  • artificial lakes

Recycling waste and gray water require far less energy than treating salt water using a desalination system. Other ways of using wastewater are to recharge groundwater aquifer systems and augmenting potable water supply. This will also help to prevent salt lines from moving up rivers and preventing saltwater intrusion in coastal areas. Resupplying above-ground reservoirs is less common but there are plans in the works where it will be done.

“Gray” water or Greywater is gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers. Recycling this type of wastewater saves valuable energy and puts less stress on the arid parts of this country.

Recycled water can also be used to create or enhance wetlands and riparian habitats. It can prevent pollution in sensitive ecosystems. It’s a give and takes for ecosystems where too much water is pulled away or too much may be put back in because of the demand in an area.

This pulling and pushing to accommodate the needs of a society that has been kind of spoiled for a long time. Education and a sustainable attitude can be a solution to that. Like how important the earth cleans itself.

Wetlands provide numerous benefits, which include wildlife and wildfowl habitats, water quality improvement, flood diminishment, and fisheries breeding grounds.

For streams that have been impaired or dried from water diversion, water flow can be augmented with recycled water to sustain and improve the aquatic and wildlife habitat. We can chip in and become stewards and that’s not unrealistic or a pie-in-the-sky. It’s a global responsibility no matter where you come from or what your politics are.

Wastewater effluents can contain excessive amounts of nutrients that can be important in certain areas but also may be detrimental in others. Nitrogen is an example of a crucial nutrient that is an important part of aquatic growth and health.  Too much of a load can kill the entire ecosystem choking it of oxygen.

Effluents of Greywater treatment can be tailored to where and how much of it will be put back into the local water systems. This will save energy from piping, pumps, and transmission to outside wetlands and marshes.

All these places where treated drinking water is normally used can save energy costs and huge amounts of drinking water supply if sewage treatment effluent or Graywater is used in these processes. It makes a lot of sense.

But wait! What if we took it one more step and use sewage treatment effluent and the biosolids that are created in the Sewage Treatment process as drinking water and energy. We can and we do. 

What is Greywater Used For

Conserving water is a great idea no matter if you live in the Southwest or the Northeast. Graywater is the water we already used in our home. In the last few years, we have been learning to use that wastewater in the landscape around our homes, cities, and towns.

Today, half of 50% of our residential treated drinking water is still used for irrigation. Worldwide, this is considered wasteful. There is an enormous amount of water & energy that equates to money that can be utilized in Graywater use and Sewage Reclamation.

You really don’t need the same quality of water that is used in your home as you would use outside your home for irrigating your trees, plants, and gardens. In fact, plants and vegetables mostly thrive on Greywater.

It is beneficial for a variety of reasons. If you were to use your Graywater just for gardening outside on your property, you could see a reduction of 16 to 40% of your current water usage depending on how much you want to use.

There are inexpensive, uncomplicated methods for homeowners to start off with. What if you took the water that you used to wash clothes or flushed the toilet and used that to grow vegetables and plants or irrigate your fruit trees in your yard.

Just in the amount of water that a washing machine uses, there is on average a 30 to 50 gallon uses per/load. sent to Treatment plants to be cleaned discharged into the waterway then pumped out and treated as drinking water. You can calculate how much water you are using by multiply the number of loads you do.

Same with Showers and baths. Most Shower Heads have a Gal/per/min. the rating that is printed right on the showerhead. You can multiply the time that the person is in the shower by the rating on the showerhead. It’s a small easy step but small easy steps lead to big results.

Or use your water meter while someone is showering and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how much water is being used. Have you ever seen your water meter?

Again multiply all this with the numbers of showers you are taking a day and you’ll get a reliable ballpark figure. Bathtubs are around 30-50 gallons so again do the numbers.

Another source of Graywater inside the home is Sinks. In most states Bathroom Sink water is considered Graywater but Kitchen Sinks is not classified as Graywater. Home water conservation is easy once you understand how and where you can use less. This quick and easy Home Water Calculator available online shows you which water uses in your home are efficient and which are not and offer simple conservation tips that save water and energy.

Graywater is never used from toilets. Anything that is considered fecal matter is considered Blackwater not Graywater. 

Besides Irrigation Graywater can be used for flushing toilets. Water experts believe that this idea should be looked at because of the amount of treated drinking used in flushing. It’s easy to understand. This is considered a huge waste and maybe someday we’ll see a system put in place that will save this waste.

Plants That Like Grey Water

 

If you decide to use Graywater for your landscaping, there are studies available now that say larger plants are better suited to be irrigated with a simple greywater system than smaller plants.

Choose the larger plants, such as trees, bushes, berries, shrubs, and larger perennials or annuals. (It’s much more difficult to water lots of small plants that are spread out over a large area with simple greywater systems.) that uses a hole filled with mulch and the water from your washer.

Be sure to use “plant friendly” products in the house, those free of boron and low in salts, then greywater is suitable for any plant that wants to be irrigated. The mulch in the basin keep the soil healthy and the roots absorb the oxygen and nutrients that are made available through the irrigation then naturally clean the Graywater.

What’s left is quality pure, clean drinking water. So your fruit trees are happy and the groundwater underneath the soil in your backyard is naturally purified. Saving the energy needed to treat wastewater from the (washer) and energy necessary to pull water from the source to be treated as drinking water. Starting the cycle all over again.

There are certain cleaning products that are used in most households that not good for irrigating plants and flowers and would have to be taken out of the equation or substituted if Graywater Reuse was to be utilized.

There are plenty of plant-friendly products that can be used. Most household cleaning contains Salt, Boron (a plant micro toxin), or Chlorine (can kill beneficial microbes in the soil) that are all detrimental to plants and landscapes.

Graywater should be stored in a safe place on your property. Away from waterways, storm drains or creeks because of its nutrient content. If Graywater is used on plants it should be injected in the ground away from the edible parts of the plant, because it might contain some bacteria that would not be safe to be eaten or direct contact by children. Graywater is normally stored in containers that are deemed safe and kept for short periods of time.

MyWaterEarth&Sky carries these collapsible pillow/bladder type Tanks used to store Graywater for greenhouses and nurseries. Fol-Da-Tank GW-2500 Pillow Style Tank, 30 oz. Gray Water, 12’7″ x 14′ x 2′, They come in different sizes and are filtered.

 

What is a Greywater System?

 

Here is an easy way to catch Graywater without a complicated plumbing plan and in most states does not require a permit.  You are simply diverting Graywater from the Washer which is a huge source of Graywater to a basin or holding tank. In this case, a Mulch filled basin which is a hole filled with wood chips that can spread the Graywater out and prevent clogging,  pooling or runoff.

These basins can be in the vicinity of the tree or plant. The basin contains the flow from the pump in the washer and the mulch covers the Graywater. The beneficial bacteria in the Graywater break down the elements absorbed in the mulch and keep the soil in the area loose and aerated. Nature cleaning itself by a natural process.

The main consider in building a small Graywater system is access to the drainage system in your home and for Laundries, the drain is normally easy to get to. The pump is the mechanism that controls the flow of the Graywater to your garden or trees.  Bigger systems use a Container or holding tank with a pump and can be timed. It all depends on how far you want to take it.

If the yard where your plants are receiving the irrigation is somewhat flat, the pump on the washer machine will push the Graywater out away from the house up to 50 foot into the yard. If there is downward sloping away from the wall of the house, where typically you’ll find for homes built with drainage in mind, you can go as far as you want.

The steps of choosing a system right for you are:

  • What sources of Graywater can you access?
  • How much Graywater can your home produce?
  • What kind of Plants are you going to irrigate with the Graywater? Match the amount of Graywater with the plants weekly needs. Use a “Hydrozone” keeping plants with similar watering needs together.
  • Choose a realistic system that will meet your needs.

 

Can greywater be used for drip irrigation?

Drip irrigation is an excellent irrigation technique used in dry arid nations and is a successful process.  The tubing used for this process has very small emitters, which will quickly clog from particles in greywater. To use successfully use greywater in a drip irrigation system you’ll need to:

  • Filter it.
  • Have a plan to clean the filter (either automatically or by hand).
  • Use “greywater compatible” drip irrigation tubing.

Remember that Graywater filters do not remove salt or other chemicals which may harm plants, the filters remove particles to prevent clogging of outlets. There are two ways to filter greywater: manually cleaned filters and automatically cleaned filters. Manually cleaned filters are lower in cost than automatically cleaned ones but require frequent maintenance, and thus are often the cause of system failure or abandonment. Greywater filters can be found here on MyWaterEarth&Sky

How much does a greywater system cost?
The cost of greywater systems varies on how simple or complex it is to alter the plumbing, how large the yard is, and who is doing the installation. For simple systems much of the work is digging; digging mulch basins and digging trenches to bury the pipe or plastic tubing. If you’re on a limited budget labor costs can be reduced if you are willing to do much of the digging yourself then you can get a nice system up and running with little expense.

These are rough average costs, exact costs will vary depending on the size and complexity of your site. 

Laundry to Landscape Simple Graywater System 
Materials only $100-$250
Full installation $700-$2,000

Toilet to Tap Definition

According to world reports by the UN, Water Scarcity will affect more than half the world population by the year 2020. These figures are accelerated by temperature, drought, and population. Shortages like these will threaten food production and the health and security of whole Nations of people.

Millions of people are already exposed to unsanitary water and the diseases that drinking it can bring. These issues are now even on our doorstep in America.

The image of using sewage as a solution became a hard sell for city leaders who protested the use of Wastewater reuse to supplement their dwindling potable water supplies in the last decade, because of what’s called a “yuck” factor. 

In Orange County California where reservoir levels have been at record lows the last few years, residents gave in to the notion that Sewage Effluent was actually cleaner than a lot of raw water supplies around the world.

Now in Southern California, the Orange County Water District is re-routing 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater per day to a 3 step treatment process that includes:

  1.  Microfiltration-of the treated wastewater to remove solids, oils, and bacteria.
  2. Reverse Osmosis that pushes it through a fine plastic membrane that will remove viruses and pharmaceuticals.
  3. Then the water passes through UV light that will remove any remaining organic compounds before it joins the main groundwater supply which must meet very strict standards for distribution to the Counties households.

The water district says the project was a total success and that the company exceeds all EPA’s Drinking water standards today.

The World Water Council is an international think tank founded in 1996, with its headquarters in Marseille, France. It has 382 members which include organizations from the UN and intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, governments and ministries, academic institutions, international organizations, local governments, and civil society groups. says that Recycled Sewage will be a normalized source of drinking water in cities around the world within 30 years.

Other water districts including ones in Australia use a combination of Desalinization and wastewater reclamation for their water scarcity solutions. There was huge opposition to the use of Wastewater Reuse from people who had problems with it.  Now, these citizens have conformed to most people’s thinking, that this is a reasonable approach to the worldwide situation we find ourselves in today.

Perth and Adelaide were both using more groundwater than the other capital cities in the country. Perth is also pumping treated wastewater along with Desalinized seawater into shallower groundwater aquifers to replenish the supply. It’s working.

Australia still has the second-highest daily water consumption per person in the world. The US has the world’s highest at 575 liters a day. The UK is already exceeding Melbourne’s target with 149 liters per day.

Tragically, in Mozambique, water is in such short supply that people there use a paltry four liters per day.

One of the most water-stressed cities in the world is Singapore whose population is expected to double by 2060. It has created a product called NeWater that has become Singapore’s answer to Evian or Volvic Bottled Water. The city-state’s drains and sewers were the answer. It is “ultra-safe”, insists PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, which says the reclaimed water surpasses World Health Organization standards.

The reclaimed water is treated by conventional means then three additional purification processes: Microfiltration, which provides a basic filter to weed out disease-causing bacteria. Reverse osmosis” (which is used in desalination), and uses a semi-permeable membrane to eradicate further viruses, metals and the like; exposure to Ultraviolet light, making doubly sure any remaining organisms are inactivated.

See the familiar pattern to the process? 

Most of the Sewage Reclamation Projects start with Greywater Reuse then that leads to a process that allows that Wastewater to be injected into a groundwater system or aquifer ultimately recharging the drinking water system for the community.

Basically, it’s the same process that is being used in Orange County California. When Reverse Osmosis came around a decade or two ago the energy to use these caused a huge expense. In the last few years, they have been adapted and produced to be installed in everything from Mega Desalinization projects in Israel to home water filters and personal water filter straws that are used for survival. The Wastewater Reuse Alternative enables a much cheaper way to add to water systems compared to Desalinization. between the two, they can make a viable source. We’ll never run out of Ocean or Wastewater.

This availability makes them a standard in the water treatment industry as much as carbon is. Ultraviolet light has always been around in sewage and water treatment but was not practical until there was maximum pre-filtration before the water gets to it.

With Microfiltration, it becomes incredibly efficient. Others countries using sewage reclamation projects to supplement their water supply are America, Israel, South Africa, Cairo Egypt, India, The Far East, Windhoek, the capital of Namibia whose one of the first, and host of other places where drinking water is an issue. Microfiltration used with Reverse Osmosis and UV after Convential treaments of Primary-Secondary-Tertiary make the differance.

Recycling Sewage to Produce Drinking Water

The Omniprocessor

The Omniprocessor is a safe repository for human waste. Today, in many places around the globe without modern sewage systems, truckers take the waste from latrines and dump it into the nearest river or the ocean—or at a treatment facility that doesn’t actually treat the sewage.

Either way, it often ends up in the water supply. If they took it to the Omniprocessor instead, it would be burned safely. The machine runs at such a high temperature (1000 degrees Celsius) that there’s no nasty smell; in fact, it meets all the emissions standards set by  U.S. government agencies.

The Omniproccor uses steam and produces more than enough energy to burn the next batch of waste. In other words, it powers itself, with electricity to spare. The next-generation processor, more advanced than this one, will handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of potable water a day and a net 250 kW of electricity.

The next step is the pilot project; later this year, Steven Janicki from a Seatle based company who he says are a passionate problem-solvers and original thinkers. They are sustainably focused and are intent on changing the world with their new technology.

They will set up an Omniprocessor in Dakar, Senegal.  With the use of sensors and webcams, Janicki’s engineers can control the processor remotely and communicate with the team in Dakar so they can diagnose any problems that come up from anywhere in the world. There are many people that have looked to Sewage Treatment as the next alternative for solving the Water Crisis. Along the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation see this alternative as a self-sustaining solution.

Water Recycling System

Swift Sustainable Water Initiative

is an innovative water treatment initiative in eastern Virginia designed to ensure a sustainable source of groundwater while addressing environmental challenges such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion. The multi-year initiative will take already highly treated wastewater (that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James, or York rivers) through additional advanced water treatment to produce drinking-quality water from wastewater.

Swift has 2 parallel pilot processes that use a carbon base and a membrane base. These processes have been used around the globe so there already successful. The membrane process removes particles and helps remove pathogens and pollutants.

The carbon-based system does much of the same but this dual parallel system is sampled continuously and intensely at different sequences in the treatment process, so the system that is permanently put in place at a later date will be the best treatments installed for the future. It’s a much different approach than what other Environmental Companies do.

After a few years of data and test-taking, the dual systems are compared for the best type of treatment in that region of the country. The Swift process uses proven techniques combined to ensure strict drinking water standards from the reused wastewater.

The final treatment process they build for the region is the one that’s tailored made for the region.

Ayala Water & Ecology Ltd is a company of sustainability experts with 26 years of experience in the field of Phytoremediation and operating with a simple goal:

Use natural, energy free, tools to restore balance to the environment.
This goal led to the development of the Natural Biological System™, sustainable natural technology for treating sewage and waste streams, rehabilitating affected water bodies, and rebalancing watersheds.

National Biological Systems are sustainable natural technology for treating sewage and waste streams, rehabilitating affected water bodies, and rebalancing watersheds. They are tailored solutions that integrate into the social and environmental fabric, providing an economical and aesthetic side of waste treatment that has never been known before. Working alongside or inside a public park, shopping plazas, and Bicycle paths.

 

  • NBS concept is based on the following guidelines:
  • Every design is preceded by a thorough survey, learning the site’s unique conditions, generating a holistic understanding and approach to the problems.
  • The system is designed to function without mechanical or human intervention to the greatest extent possible. As a result, the systems’ maintenance costs are very low.
  • Purification systems are designed to treat a whole range of contaminants simultaneously and to act as a powerful buffer, absorbing high fluctuations in sewage quality.
  • Sewage and soil are treated as close to their source as possible, with minimal use of pipe systems and pumps.
  • Local labor is used for system development and maintenance.
  • Local components such as plants and aggregates are used as much as possible.
  • The system is integrated into the landscape design, creating a powerful natural “green lung” that creates no nuisance and becomes a natural habitat that we call “Active landscape”.
  • All of the on-site water resources (run-off, rainfall, marginal, and waste streams) are included in the holistic design, dramatically expanding treatment and onsite reuse options.

The future of Water Scarcity looks brighter because of Sustainable Businesses that find a way of solving or at least coming closer to solving some of the biggest issues we face today. As always High Technology comes to the rescue with innovated processes and the Common Sense approach of Recycled Graywater help take us all one more step closer to a better world.

 

We have to loose the Caveman thinking that we have developed over a million years. “Water, its all we have and all we ever will have”

Jim has been working in the Water/Wastewater/Industrial Treatment and Water Filtration Business as a Consulting-Operator for over 30 years. He has written over 300 articles on the Worldwide Water Situation & Solutions

JimGalloway

Author/Editor, MyWaterEarth&Sky

Related Questions:

What are the 3 stages of sewage treatment?

Sewage treatment generally involves three stages, called primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment. These treatments use Biological, Chemical, and Physical treatments

What happens to sewage water after treatment?

Effluent water is discharged into a neighboring stream or river and the solids called sludge after being treated are landfilled or used in agriculture

Can human poop be used as fuel?

Human feces can in principle also be dried and used as a fuel source or processed into sludge. This sludge can be used to create biomass and then fuel. Sewage can be reclaimed & harvested by Graywater reuse, Phytoremediation treatment using plants to naturally purify sewage, Standard treatment with Microfiltration, Reverse Osmosis, UV light & a High heat system that purifies water & generates energy.

 

References:

How to purify wastewater using just plants

Sedron Technologies

Recent Posts