Lake Mead, which supplies water to 25 million people in the American West, declined to 36 percent of its capacity. One rural California community has run out of water completely after it broke well in early June. The fields sit uncultivated as farmers sell their water quantities instead of growing crops, putting a supply of land in danger.
As the West withers under extreme drought, lawmakers have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives HR 4099, a law instructing the Minister of the Interior to create a program to finance $ 750 million worth of water recycling projects in 17 Western countries by 2027 (the Law, which is introduced at the end of June, is currently before the Natural Resources Committee.)
“This is starting to be our new normal – 88 percent of the West is under a certain degree of drought,” said spokeswoman Susie Lee (D-Nevada), who introduced account. “Lake Mead is at its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built. And the Colorado River has been in a drought for more than two decades. “
All the while, the population and economy of the western U.S. are booming, putting tremendous pressure on a dwindling water supply. “I have, I guess, more people – one. And there was an increase in the agricultural area – two “, says the representative of Grace Napolitano (D-California), who presented the law. “And then climate change exacerbates the problem.”
Part of the solution, lawmakers say, is to finance the construction of more facilities that can recycle wastewater flowing from our sinks, toilets and showers. You may think this is crude and pointless, but technology already exists – in fact it has been around for half a century. The process is actually quite simple. The purifier takes wastewater and adds microbes that consume organic matter. The water is then pumped through special membranes that filter out bastards like bacteria and viruses. To be safe, the water is then mined with UV light to kill germs. The resulting water can actually be also clean for human consumption: If you drank it, things could flush minerals out of your body, so the facility must return the minerals. (Once drank the final product. It tastes like … water.)
Recycled H2O can be pumped underground into aquifers and then pumped out as needed, purified once more and sent to customers. Or it can instead be used for non-drinking purposes, such as agriculture or industrial processes.
Basically, you take the wastewater that would normally be treated and pumped into the sea – consuming it, really – and return it to the terrestrial water cycle, making it readily available to humans again. “Part of what makes it so important as an element of the water supply portfolio is its reliability,” says Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “To the extent that there are urban centers that produce wastewater, they can be treated. It provides a reliable source of additional water supply – even in dry years when supply is limited and the development of alternative sources would be difficult or impossible. “
Recycled water is also cost-effective, in a sense: by injection underground to fill aquifers it is stored for use during droughts. This will probably be especially important in the American West, because climate change makes drought punitive i futzing with rain dynamics. Modeling by climate scientists shows that future storms will be more intense, but still less frequent. And by the end of the century, mountain snow cover – which typically abounds in much of the western water until it melts into spring runoff – is predicted to shrink by about half.
“Our hydrological cycle will become more unpredictable,” says Rafael Villegas, program manager Operation NEXT at the Department of Water and Energy in Los Angeles, which has been recycling water since the 1970s for reuse without drinking. “Along with population growth, not just here in California, but also where the water comes from – Nevada, Arizona and Northern California – you can expect there to be additional requirements for these systems. So we end up with straw, right? Then we need to start thinking, how to become more efficient with the water we have to do to have? “