Overcoming the Yuck Factor of Wastewater Recycling and Web3

The Economic and Environmental Implications of Wastewater Recycling

Phoenix, Arizona, has a novel idea. Why not turn our wastewater into drinking water? While this idea is not unique to Phoenix, it does create an image of the "Yuck" factor of wastewater recycling. In this article, we are going to delve into the following topics:

  1. Overview of what wastewater recycling is and why it's necessary

  2. Traditional methods used

  3. The emergence of Web3Technology

  4. A case study example from Texas

  5. The role of IoT sensors

  6. Future outlook and challenges

Before we get started, however, I want to tell you a story.

Back in the 80s, my ex and I lived in a house that had a well. Unfortunately, I discovered a mouse in the well. Bottled water was just appearing on the scene, and it was too far to drive to purchase it. So, we poured a bottle of bleach (maybe two, I can't remember) into the well. Yum, nothing like drinking bleach.

Overview of wastewater recycling

To begin with, what is wastewater recycling? Wikipedia explains it as,

"Water reclamation (also called wastewater reuse, water reuse or water recycling) is the process of converting municipal wastewater (sewage) or industrial wastewater into water that can be reused for a variety of purposes. Types of reuse include: urban reuse, agricultural reuse (irrigation), environmental reuse, industrial reuse, planned potable reuse, de facto wastewater reuse (unplanned potable reuse)."

Wastewater reuse can be traced back to the Romans and Greeks, but turning wastewater into drinking water is a different topic. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides us with clarity by saying,

"The process of using treated wastewater for drinking water is called potable water reuse. Potable water reuse provides another option for expanding a region's water resource portfolio.

There are two types of potable water reuse:

Indirect potable reuse: Uses an environmental buffer, such as a lake, river, or a groundwater aquifer, before the water is treated at a drinking water treatment plant."

Direct potable reuse: Involves the treatment and distribution of water without an environmental buffer."

Traditional Methods of Wastewater Recycling



To summarize points in the video, the process for turning wastewater into potable water is below:

  1. Solids and large particles get stripped out through sedimentation tanks. Hungry, helpful bacteria are added to the water to remove the solids.

  2. Next, since the water will be turned into a product that is fit for human consumption, further treatment will occur.

  3. Third, the recycled water undergoes a rigorous treatment process.

  4. Drinking water treatment – It goes through microfiltration to further remove any evidence of solid material that may exist.

  5. Reverse osmosis is next used to pressurize it through a membrane. This eliminates any desirable things like viruses, bacteria, and pharmaceuticals.

  6. The next step is to subject the recycled water to disinfectant and a powerful UV light.

  7. Another step, as described by Wildon UK, is:

"The treated water is then usually added to a reservoir or pumped into underground aquifers, combining it with natural water supplies. This makes it 'indirect potable water': recycled water which is treated to become drinkable and is then added to and mixed with natural water – such as groundwater – before becoming drinking water."

 To finish off the steps, water purification processes are engaged.

The whole process sounds rigorous enough. However, I will be the first to admit I can't quite get over that "yuck" factor meant to turn the water from "toilet to tap" water, as it is often called.

The emergence of web3 technology

 Of course, I wondered if there are any connections to web3 technology being used for wastewater recycling to drinking water. It took some research, but I uncovered that blockchain technology could be used in the wastewater-to-potable water process by:

  • Water Management - Blockchain data can't be corrupted (as it is decentralized). The results are safer platforms to record various components such as fees, quantity, distribution, etc.

  • Water Quality Improvement - Organizations can install automatic sensors to identify pollutants, measure the pollution level, and notify the water authorities. In addition, using IoT and blockchain in water utilities can help locate leaks or burst pipes and prevent water.

  • Water Conservation - Blockchain in water utilities can change the current water management by ensuring transparency, security, and decentralized mechanisms for efficient use. We all need to utilize water consciously; blockchain can help steer us in the right direction.

A case study example from Texas

The Big Spring Water Treatment plant in Big Spring, Texas, is a prime example of a forward-thinking waste management organization that is showing that wastewater recycling is not only a possibility but also a reality.

 The Big Spring Water Treatment Plant is an example of robust water management, capable of treating roughly 16 million gallons per day and filtering 21 million gallons per day. The plant employs various cutting-edge purification technologies such as micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection to ensure the treated water is up to drinking water standards.

The plant's unique system uses remote controls to accurately measure and add chemicals to the water, maintaining its quality within regulatory limits. Once treated, the water is sent into the E V. Spence Reservoir to be pumped uphill for delivery to other cities.

The treated water is also blended with raw water from other sources before being supplied to the water treatment facility in Big Spring. Furthermore, the plant incorporates an advanced secondary treatment process for the environmentally safe treatment and disposal of wastewater, demonstrating its commitment to holistic water management. Besides producing water that meets or exceeds all primary drinking water quality standards, the plant also adds non-mandatory guidelines to have the water taste good.

Texas is the first state to have a Direct Potable Reuse facility in the United States. Around 12 years later, Texas opened another DPR facility in Wichita Falls.

The role of IoT sensors

Water is a basic need for humans. You and I must have clean water to drink to survive. IoT is all about sensors in the race for potable water reuse. Listen to what Tutorials Point has to say about the role of IoT sensors in helping us to physiologically "stomach" the "Yuck" factor.

"The IoT helps manage water levels, leakage, water quality, and water flow in various places through different water routes. The working of loT in water level management is done when the sensors are installed at additional water resources. It helps to detect the water temperature at different places, the quality of water, and the level of leakage at other sites and indicates the methods to be applied to stop water leakage."

Future Outlook and Challenges

  • Wastewater recycling into direct potable drinking water faces several challenges. First and foremost, people have a problem with the thought of knowing water came from the "toilet to tap." I mean, be honest. Would you want to drink up?

  • Another drawback is that it is expensive to treat wastewater. Financial costs include running and maintaining the equipment, aeration processes, timing and storage needs, and more.

  • Concerns about the health of consumers are rampant. The perception is that clean is not clean enough.

  • Regulatory requirements need to be followed.

  • Distance adds to the concerns about delivery fees to the consumers.

  • Moreover, implementing direct potable reuse (DPR) specifically, although cost-effective and environmentally friendly, has a long way to easing safety apprehensions and public perception. These obstacles need to be addressed to enable successful DPR implementation.

 Let's see. What was the purpose of this article? Oh yes, it was about overcoming the "Yuck Factor" of wastewater recycling and web3. How have I done so far? I told you that we would be covering the following:

  1. Overview of what wastewater recycling is and why it's necessary

  2. Traditional methods used

  3. The emergence of Web3Technology

  4. A case study example from Texas

  5. The role of IoT sensors

  6. Future outlook and challenges

 Is your mind conjuring up all sorts of awful images?

The thought of drinking water once in someone's toilet is not appealing, and that's the 'yuck' factor we're talking about. But we need to understand that all water is, in some form or another, recycled. Our planet has a finite amount of water; the water cycle is nature's way of purifying and recycling it.

The wastewater recycling process, particularly Direct Potable Reuse (DPR), is a highly controlled and monitored system. It involves many steps of treatment, each designed to remove different types of contaminants. The final product is water that far surpasses the safety standards for drinking water. It's not about "toilet to tap," but rather "waste to worth."

Applying Web3 technology and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in water management is a significant step toward efficient wastewater recycling. IoT sensors can monitor water quality at every stage of the treatment process, ensuring any abnormalities are discovered and resolved quickly.

The case of Texas does show that direct potable reuse is possible. It gives other states and nations a benchmark to shoot for. Of course, the challenges I have shown will need to be resolved first.

The 'yuck' factor is a psychological barrier that can be overcome. Maybe beer using wastewater will make it more palatable. Arizona is already using this option. Want some?

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#wastewater recycling#potable water reuse#direct potable reuse#overcoming yuck
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