I thought I could proudly say that the only time my mouth has ever come into contact with toilet water has been when one of my dogs manages to swipe me with a big, gross kiss when I’ve let down my guard. It’s never been pleasant, but I’ve survived. That may not be true for many Americans, however.
Towns across the country are already unwittingly drinking “toilet” water every day, according to a National Geographic article. This treated wastewater, also known as “reclaimed water,” is also oft-used by industries and for irrigation.
And the facts prove it — it’s safe. A report recently published by the National Research Council (NRC) found that current wastewater treatment technologies were advanced enough to make even toilet water safe for drinking.
The problem, however, is breaking that psychological barrier.
Ironically, hoity-toities in Orange County, Calif. started guzzling old sewage water as part of a massive “toilet-to-tap” project to supplement a drinking water reservoir back in 2008. We can’t help but laugh just a little.
But seriously, consider the facts: the average American uses 176 gallons of water each day. That’s more than 35 times the amount of water used daily by the average African family.
The availability of water is something Americans generally take for granted — and it’s pretty apparent we hog way more than our fair share. There are 884 million people that lack access to clean water in the world — that’s almost three times the U.S. population.
So there’s a way to share the wealth — how do we get people to accept it?
Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told National Geographic that getting people used to the idea of drinking recycled wastewater will inevitably take time and persistence, as he cites it did in Singapore:
“They're switching over to recycled water and they're doing it gradually and also giving people an economic advantage to switch," he said.
"First, they take recycled water and pump it into the ground so they don't go directly from recycled water to drinking. And they will also provide the water at any catered event [for free]."
Every day, Americans eat food covered in chemicals, breath air chock full of smog and pollutants, pop pills like they’re candy and gladly accept harmful ultraviolet rays from tanning beds. So what’s a little toilet water going to hurt?