Would you drink sewage water converted into drinking water? (Watch video)

A few days ago, on Facebook, we came across a post by Pete Gable asking as follows: “Water is an ongoing problem in Malta. A hydrologist has created a system that turns sewage water into high quality drinking water. It’s been tested for over 1000 hours and meets all the same standards as the desalination and groundwater plants do but government won’t licence it. Why?”

Many replied showing their disgust, others seemed to be reasoning it out with replies such as that from Anna Scicluna saying “Maybe not to be used for drinking, but a hundred other uses” which sounded like a very sensible proposition to us. Then there was Andrea Bonavia who reckons that “The only problem holding back such advancements on the island is the peoples mentality”.

sewage water

Some got confused and thought the discussion was about filtered sewage which seems to be used by some farmers to water their crops with. However, Pete Gable explained “we are not talking about filtered sewerage for fields but a special process that turns that water back into perfect drinking water”.

One of the best replies, in our opinion, came from Alex Andros, “1000 hours is no nearly good enough. How about adding some facts to your emotional posts? What happens when the system does not operate properly? How energy efficient is it? What kind of infrastructure does it require? Would you drink water knowing it comes from a pastizzi induced diarrhoea, regardless how clean it is?”

Anyhow, in the process many outlines various scenarios that would end up creating problems in the long run. So we tried to research a little about this and we found out that in some parts of the world, the wastewater that flows down the drain – yes, including toilet flushes – is being filtered and treated until it’s as pure as spring water, if not more so. 

It might not sound appealing, but recycled water is safe and tastes like any other drinking water, bottled or tap. “If anything, recycled wastewater is relatively sweet,” says Anas Ghadouani, an environmental engineer at the University of Western Australia in Crawley.

sewage water treatment unravel malta
Image: Science Photo Library

So how is this done? First, you have to filter out all of the solids and other waste in the water. Then, in a process called reverse osmosis, you filter out the tiniest of particles. As an extra precaution, the water is often flashed with ultraviolet light to sterilise pathogenic microbes. In the end the promise is that of water in a very pure state; described as being purer than what we currently get out of reservoirs and rivers.

Inevitably, there’s a “yuck” factor. For some people, no matter how much you tell them the water is safe to drink, the feeling of disgust is too much to overcome; even in the direst of situations.  For most of you, am sure, including us to be honest, the prospect of drinking recycled wastewater is literally hard to swallow. So, would you drink sewage water converted into drinking water?