Can Sewage Water Be Treated for Drinking?

Like most people, you probably only remember about sewage water when your monthly utility bill comes. After that, you conclude it’s no longer your concern.

However, you must know that there have been various developments when it comes to sewage water. And most of these developments center around how we can use sewage water for other purposes. 

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Over the years, people have treated sewage water and applied to agricultural and industrial uses. Yet, one new development is the recycling of sewage water for potable purposes. Yes, for drinking water.

I guess you’re interested now, right? Well, you should be. So, you understand the recent developments. We’ll address the question; can sewage water be treated for drinking.

Let’s get right to it!

Can You Purify Sewage Water?

So, onto the million dollars question – is it possible to purify sewage water? The answer is yes, it’s totally possible to clean sewage water.

However, there are different degrees of purification. For instance, sewage water can get purified enough to be used for irrigation and agricultural purposes. It can then get further cleaned for drinking purposes. 

The first degree involves transforming sewage water to reclaimed water. It’s actually not so complicated.  The sewage water is run through the various distillation process. Then, the result is clean water, which is no longer brown. 

However, at this stage, the water isn’t spotless. As such, you can only apply it to agricultural and industrial uses.

The next degree involves transforming the reclaimed water to recycled water. At this stage, the reclaimed water gets an additional treatment that makes it safe for drinking purposes.

In fact, people believe that treated water from sewage water is usually cleaner than the currently available drinking water.

So, you understand how this is done, here are the three stages of the purification process.

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Stage 1: Preliminary Treatment

At this stage, treatment involves removing solid particles from the sewage water. This stage focuses on removing large particles from the liquid solution.

Stage 2: Secondary Treatment

At this stage, treatment gets much more severe and critical. This stage focuses on removing all the organic waste from the sewage water. Usually, bacteria are the primary tool at this stage as they consume the sludge within the sewage water. 

Then, when this stage ends, the sewage water is usually free of contaminants and waste. Usually, when it comes to reclaimed water, purification ends typically at this stage.

Stage 3: Tertiary Treatment (Effluent Polishing)

At this stage, the water is quite clean. Still, there are some micro contaminants within the water. And these contaminants are generally toxic and hazardous.

So, this stage functions to remove these micro materials from the water. And this gets done through UV-based purification and clinical treatment. There’s also a sand filtration system to purify water at this stage.

So, after this stage, the water becomes completely clean and safe for drinking.

What Happens if You Drink Sewage Water?

Actually, no one needs to tell you not to drink sewage water. Who deliberately drinks sewage anyway? However, just so you know that it’s totally a no-go area, here’s an explanation of its health risk. 

Generally, sewage water will make you extremely sick. It’s quite simple why. Usually, sewage water comprises various organisms that are dangerous to the body. Now, when you take them in, you expose yourself to these organisms, which can affect your health and well-being.

In case you’re wondering what exactly you’re at risk of, here are some popular health issues associated with sewage waters.

1. Gastro-enteritis

This is what others call stomach flu, and it results in various conditions such as fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and even headaches.

2. Hepatitis

This involves the failure of the liver. Usually, symptoms of this condition include fever, jaundice, fatigue, skin discoloration, absence of appetite, diarrhea, and nausea. 

3. Dysentery

This also affects the stomach, and it results in various conditions such as fever, stomach cramps, and bloody diarrhea.

4. Typhoid Fever

This a bacterial infection and results in multiple diseases such as high fever, cough, headaches, weakness, absence of appetite, and stomach pains.

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5. Salmonellosis

This is when Salmonella finds its way into your body, and it results in various conditions such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.

6. Giardiasis

This usually when the intake of sewage water contains the Giardia parasite. And it results in various conditions such as stomach cramps, upset stomachs, diarrhea, and watery stools.

7. Cryptosporidiosis

This also a bacterial infection, and it results in various conditions such as diarrhea, slight fever, watery or loose stools, stomach cramps, and upset stomachs.

However, you must know that these risks don’t extend if it’s purified sewage water. So, in situations where the sewage water has passed through a purification system. And it’s deemed fit for drinking. Then, you can drink it without fear of any of the health hazards above.

As we already stated, this recycled water might just be the cleanest out there.

How Can Sewage Water Be Reused?

There are various uses that you can apply recycled sewage water for. These multiple uses fall under six categories, and they are:

1. Urban Uses

One of the most popular ways people reuse sewage water is through its application to urban purposes. This involves its use in circumstances such as the following.

  • Irrigation of various public parks
  • Irrigation of private gardens
  • Irrigation of sporting facilities
  • Application to fire protection
  • Public toilet flushing
  • Dust control
  • Vehicle washing 

2. Agricultural Uses

Another way through which people reuse sewage water is by applying it to agricultural purposes. This involves its use in circumstances such as the following.

  • Watering food crops both commercially processed and otherwise
  • Hydroponic culture
  • Aquaculture

Generally, this application is also preferable. This is because it provides water at a lower cost compared to the cost of other acquisition methods. Also, its composition makes it quite useful as a fertilizer. 

3. Industrial Uses

People also reuse sewage water through its application to industrial purposes. This involves its use as:

  • Cooling water
  • Processing water
  • Washdown water
  • Soil compaction
  • Making concrete
  • Dust control
  • Recirculating cooling systems and towers

4. Recreational Uses

There’s also a predominant application of recycled wastewater to recreational uses. This involves its use in:

  • Irrigation of golf courses
  • Snowmaking
  • Various private aesthetic impoundments 
  • Numerous private recreational impoundments such as fishing, boating, and bathing
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5. Environmental Uses

There’s also a constant application of recycled wastewater to environmental uses. This involves its use in:

  • Aquifer recharge
  • Marshes
  • Wetlands 
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Stream augmentation
  • Silviculture

Usually, the idea is to use these recycled waters to enhance and sustain these various water bodies. 

6. Potable Uses

There’s also a predominant application of recycled wastewater to potables uses. This involves its use as:

  • Drinking water
  • Augmentation of supplies for drinking water

However, such sewage water must have passed through a highly reliable purification process. There’s also a testing and monitoring system to ensure that the water is fit for drinking.

However, beyond these uses, there are some other cases of de facto applications. Wondering what this is?

Well, it occurs where people don’t plan the use of recycled sewage water. In such cases, it happens by chance.

For instance, in a situation where a treatment plant discharges water into a river. And that river gets used as a source of drinking water in another community. In such an instance, there has been a de facto use of sewage water.

In Conclusion

In case you’re wondering if sewage water can be purified. The answer is yes. Various treatment systems are available, and they allow you to use sewage water as potable water. In fact, there are multiple states where freshwater comes from sewage water.

So, while you must avoid untreated sewage water, they are suitable for drinking once they get treated. 

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