Report Points to Water Reuse as Significant Source of Future Supplies

Reusing municipal wastewater could significantly increase the nation’s available water supplies, according to a new report from the National Research Council.

Sponsored by federal agencies, local water districts and private research foundations, the report also found that with recent advances in technology, the possible health risks of exposure to chemical contaminants and disease-causing microbes may actually be lower than the risks of existing water supplies.

"Wastewater reuse is poised to become a legitimate part of the nation's water supply portfolio given recent improvements to treatment processes," said R. Rhodes Trussell, chair of the committee that wrote the report and president of Trussell Technologies in Pasadena, Calif. "Although reuse is not a panacea, wastewater discharged to the environment is of such quantity that it could measurably complement water from other sources and management strategies."               

The committee found that many communities have already implemented water reuse projects -- such as irrigating golf courses and parks or providing industrial cooling water in locations near wastewater reclamation plants -- that are well-established and generally accepted. 

The report outlines wastewater treatment technologies for mitigating chemical and microbial contaminants, including both engineered and natural treatment systems. The committee emphasized the need for process reliability and careful monitoring to ensure that all reclaimed water meets the appropriate quality objectives for its use.

Download the report and view a PowerPoint briefing by the committee chair.