Californians may be rethinking widespread opposition to using recycled water for drinking, reports Brian Resnick of National Journal. In the past, the option of using treated wastewater to augment the state’s drinking supply has been rejected by voters. But in the midst of one of the worst drought California has ever experienced, Orange County is considering the option, and Gov. Jerry Brown has included it among the state’s responses.
The barrier to recycled water, Resnick notes, is largely psychological: people reject drinking water they know has passed through other people. However, recycled water is simply a fact of life in other parts of the country, even far less arid ones. Communities all along the Mississippi River drainage drink recycled water that starts in Chicago and has “passed through” dozens of people by the time it is served at table with gumbo in New Orleans.
A recent Field Poll indicated that Californians tend to believe that the state’s water problems stem from a failure to use water efficiently, rather than a failure to build new water storage facilities, even though the state has not built new storage infrastructure in decades. The widespread enthusiasm for more efficient use may translate into a greater political willingness to consider recycling drinking water than had been the case in previous years.