Blackwater Collection Potential
Photo Credit: Kevin Trotman
Water recycling plant in El Segundo, CA, producing five different qualities of recycled water for five different types of customers[/caption]
Urban areas in California have wastewater collection (sewerage) systems that convey blackwater to centralized treatment systems in buried pipes. In these cases, collection is not the issue, as it is already being collected.
There are two major limiting factors to a greater adoption of the use of recycled water: The first is the lack of purple pipe infrastructure already in place and the cost to create this infrastructure. But perhaps the largest limitation capping use of recycled water is the uninformed, fear-based attitude of many water users.
The field of environmental engineering provides a scientific basis for wastewater collection, treatment, disposal and (in recent decades) reuse of a small fraction of the effluent for beneficial purposes. The Clean Water Act of 1972 and its subsequent amendments paved the way for tremendous improvements in the quality of treated wastewater before its discharge into waterways. These improvements made it much more economical to reuse the treated effluent for a variety of applications in place of potable water. Potential for future capture of a higher percentage of this resource depends on overcoming high investment costs and serious public perception issues.