Can recycling waste water save us from fresh water depletion?

We are drawing water from freshwater sources such as the Oglalla faster than they can be replenished by rainfall. I was reading today in Discover magazine about a $487M facility in Orange County, California which recycles sewage back into drinkable water. However, given that the bulk of freshwater usage (69% according to wikipedia) is for use in agriculture, is this a real solution to our water problems? Granted, it will help, along with desalination, municipal areas in arid regions, but will it prevent us from running out of fresh water, especially for growing our food?


No single solution can save us from anything. Recycling waste water makes sense (after all, we’re just speeding up what nature already does). The use of water by agriculture is being worked on, and can be reduced by things like drip irrrigation as well as using grey water (which is a form of recycling, but doesn’t bother with cleaning it up). And in the case of some plants a little saltwater can be a good thing.

Georgia Wetlands Offer Cure for Drought

I had thought that injecting purified wastewater back into the water supply is not allowed (at least in SoCal). To me, this sounds like a good idea. I heard that all of us have ingested a molecule of water that was once ingested by Jesus Christ (umm, hypothetically). This makes complete sense to me. What I don’t believe is that the government can be trusted to inject clean water back into the aquifer. I just don’t believe that the government would admit error in time to prevent significant contamination whether by malice or incompetence. I hope to be proven wrong.

This site claims that 50% of Orange County’s water is used for landscaping. This is unconscionable. Reducing superfluous water usage would be a very positive step for our society.

Personal gray water systems have a huge appeal to me. I would know what went down the drain and would be confident in irrigating a garden. I no longer have a lawn. I turned off the automatic sprinkler system about 5 years ago. Granted, a large part of this is that I am to lazy too properly maintain a lawn.

We should use recycled water so long as we can guarantee its potability and affordability. I hope we succeed.