This article is from the In-Depth Report Earth Thirst: Solving the Freshwater Crisis
60-Second Earth

Gee Whiz, Why Not Recycle Urine for Drinking Water?

The U.S. can no longer afford to ignore sewage as a source of drinking water, scientists argue. David Biello reports

Americans produce 32 billion gallons of sewage every day. And we need to start drinking it. After treating it, of course. So argues a report from the U.S. National Research Council. Why drink reprocessed pee? Because freshwater supplies are getting squeezed

The reports’ scientists, utility officials and engineers note that new technologies are making it affordable to clean up and reclaim such water. And it's not just for drinking—reclaimed water can also be used for irrigation or industry. 

The best news? The possible health risks "do not exceed and, in some cases may be significantly lower than, the risks of existing water supplies."  

Many of us are already drinking such recycled water. After all, if you're downriver from another municipality odds are your drinking water has already been through their treatment plants—and every other city's upriver from you. 

Of course, there are other things we should be recovering from our wastewater, such as the vital nutrient phosphorus that may soon become scarce. But in a world that's having trouble providing enough water for everybody, recycling makes sense. If we can just overcome the blehhh factor.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 

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