What is Water Recycling and Why is it Important?

Water recycling is a process whereby wastewater from different sources is reused for various purposes. These sources may include municipal wastewater, industrial process water, stormwater, agricultural runoff, and produced water from natural resource extraction activities. Water recycled for agricultural purposes is treated to ensure that it meets the highest standards of food safety, soil health, and water quality. It also reduces the need to remove freshwater from wetlands.

Reusing water reduces the number of pollutants that enter the water supply. Untreated water may contain harmful chemicals, industrial chemicals, and pesticides. Recycled water can make water clean for wildlife and reduce pollution. Some recycled water may also contain higher levels of nutrients and benefit irrigation systems.

Recycled wastewater is a more reliable source of water than untreated water, thus reducing the stress on freshwater supplies. Recycled water can be used for agricultural purposes, reducing fertilizer application while improving productivity. It also protects streams and helps preserve the environment. In arid areas, water scarcity has become a growing concern. Fortunately, many countries are considering water recycling for agricultural purposes. Jordan, for example, reused 87% of its wastewater for agricultural use. Israel reclaimed 40% of irrigation water in 2011, and Tunisia reused 25% of its treated water.

Water recycling is an emerging global reality. Several reuse practices have evolved over the past 15 years, due to different perspectives, policies, and needs. Today, potable reuse has advanced substantially, advancing the technologies and treatment flowsheets to allow for reuse. Reclaimed water can be used for many different purposes, from irrigation to recreation to recharging the groundwater. These advances in technology have created a new market for wastewater, and the future looks bright.