With the push of a button or the pull of a handle, our faces and wastewater disappear. However, did you know that almost 80% of wastewater in the world is not reused or treated? This is a shocking statistic when we learn that over 2.4 billion people lack access to safe, clean water and sanitation. In fact, in many countries, the untreated wastewater from one individual may end up being the drinking water of another. But how do we end this problem? Is there anything we can do to make the unclean clean once again? Keep reading below to find out more:
The Damaging Effect of Wastewater
As People of Faith, we all know that our sins have a damaging effect on the world around us, sometimes we sin without even realising. This can be compared to wastewater in a sewerage system. We often do not think about the water that comes into our toilet or the waste water that drains away when we have a bath. However, this does not mean that wasting water is not having a damaging effect on the world around us.
How Sewerage Systems Work
In an operational sewerage system, the wastewater from our showers, sinks, toilets, and washing machines leave our home through a series of pipes. They then travel to a water treatment plant to be sanitised. Once the treatment is complete, the water is discharged back into the sea or rivers. The contaminants from this waste are then taken to a landfill site.
Can Untreated Wastewater Cause Damage?
As we mentioned above, almost 80% of wastewater is not reused or treated. This wastewater contains phosphorus and nitrogen. If this water is released into the sea or rivers, it can cause algae to bloom. These algae consume the oxygen in the water that fish need to survive. Thanks to this, a dead zone is created in the water.
How Should We Overcome the Problem?
As you can tell from the evidence above, wastewater treatment solutions are desperately needed. However, although it may be easy to assume that we should build sanitization solutions like the ones in the UK and the US, these types of solutions are not always appropriate for other parts of the world e.g., rural communities, dry climates, and urban slums.
Instead of trying to use the sanitization solutions we use in developed countries, we need to start thinking of new ways to overcome this problem. Perhaps, as an alternative to seeing wastewater as a problem to be eliminated, a new idea is to recover beneficial resources such as energy, nutrients, and water from wastewater.
What Resources can be Recovered from Wastewater?
Nutrients are the first example of a resource that can be recovered. The nutrients found in wastewater can be used for several things including as a slow-release fertilizer for agriculture. Another example of a resource we can extract from wastewater is usable water. While this type of water may not be suitable for drinking, it can be used for things like watering golf courses and farmers’ fields. This is much better than piping extracted water hundreds of miles from the ever-shrinking ground supplies.
Energy is another example. The energy in wastewater can be used to add more energy to the grid. In fact, research suggests that wastewater contains nine times the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater.
The Process of Recovering Resources from Wastewater
One proven technology is anaerobic digestion, which creates methane. This technology uses bacteria to convert organic carbon in wastewater into electricity.
While it is easy to disconnect yourself from problems that are not on your doorstep, and it is easy to ignore how water arrives and departs from your home, these problems are happening, and we cannot ignore them any longer. Ignoring these problems comes at a cost, not only for our local or global neighbors but also for the environment too.
God is always in our hearts: out of care for God’s creation and out of love for our friends, family, and neighbors, we need to start using less water at home by showering for shorter periods, turning off the taps, eating less meat, and throwing out less food. By doing this, we can advocate for international approaches to provide better sanitation for the people who need it.