You may have caught a few sensationalist headlines over the past few days about how parched residents of the drought-stricken, water-strapped west Texas town of Big
Leak Spring have taken to drinking recycled urine. Well, this won’t be entirely untrue once the Colorado River Municipal Water District completes — construction began this week and is due to finish sometime next year —a $13 million wastewater reclamation plant in Big Spring that will transform sewage wastewater (AKA pee water) into household tap water. It just hasn’t happened yet. And if it has, that’s a whole other story that I'm not going to touch.
Not to fret squeamish, bodily fluid-sensitive MNN readers: any trace of “yellow” will be completely zapped from the recycled wastewater that Big Spring residents will soon be drinking, bathing in, and washing their clothing and dishes with. According to CNN, the water “will be disinfected, de-mineralized, disinfected again and then mixed with water from the reservoir and then re-treated again.”
Still, the very notion of drinking recycled pee water, no matter how many times it's been treated in a high-tech facility, has left some folks in this town of 26,000 feeling uneasy or pee-shy, if you will. “That's not something I even want to think about. It really doesn't sound too good,” lamented Eunice Thixton. Well, you're going to have to get used to it, lady, as those tapped-out reservoirs and dried-up lakes aren't going to magically refill themselves ... at least in west Texas where less than 0.1 inches of rain has fallen in months (the average is 7 inches).
Although reclaiming wastewater for non-household purposes is nothing new in Texas, the Big Spring Water Reclamation Facility will be first of its kind in the Lone Star State and one of only a few in the country to transform wastewater into household tap water. Los Angeles, a city that's long struggled with issues of drought, is currently developing a similar $700 million wastewater recycling system. Additionally, NASA already employs urine-filtering technology aboard the International Space Station. Once up and running, Big Spring's pee-filtering facility will produce 2 million gallons of clean, completely drinkable water per day.