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I’ve seen many changes over my 30 years in this industry, and while the biggest has been the ever-quickening move towards automation, the most important, in my view, has concerned finding ways to prevent the overuse of chemicals, reduce the need to use environmentally-harmful chemicals and to cut down on packaging. Although we don’t tend to receive much recognition for our efforts, I believe we should congratulate ourselves on the improvements we’ve made thus far. The issue I feel we’re going to be forced to address more thoroughly as an industry though, regards the conservation of the world’s water supplies. While there are a number of manufacturers supplying equipment which uses recycled water in the cleaning process or which operates under pressure so that very little water is required, I believe that in the future, legislation - along with the cost of water - will push us all to find ways to use as little of this precious commodity as possible and that our need to get to grips with using wastewater will go far beyond cleaning.
European surveys carried out last year, revealed that the public is more open to wastewater recycling than the water sector believed. Distributed to 2,500-plus participants in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, surveys carried out by Cranfield University focused on the use of recycled water for drinking purposes, and the use of recovered nutrients from the wastewater to grow food. In the Netherlands, 75% of respondents supported, or strongly supported the use of recycled water for drinking, compared to 67% in the UK and 73% in Spain.
The UK Government has now launched its own enquiry into public acceptability of using wastewater as a source for drinking water treatment and the three water regulators - Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate have earmarked sites to be used to investigate the workings of 'toilet-to-tap' schemes. It could work out well… While the Government acknowledges that some similar schemes have been rejected in the US, a 2018 study carried out by the University of California, revealed that recycled toilet water was considered just as tasty as bottled water and better than tap water, while in the 'blind' test of 'toilet to tap' water, volunteers even admitted that they preferred it to ordinary tap water!
There’s a well-supported belief that our tap water has already gone through five bodies, so those of us who drink it have already got our heads around this concept, and with so much untreated sewage being found in our waterways and seas along with agricultural waste, chemicals and plastics, any changes to the way we handle our wastewater won’t come a moment too soon.
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5th May 2022