It was well over a year ago when CL published a cover story on the issue of instant potable reuse for water (IPR) for the city of Tampa as a way to address its water needs for the future.
IPR at its essence, is recycling and treating sewage and other wastewater to drink. It's an idea that was championed in 2009 and early 2010 by Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda, who in conjunction with officials at USF helped conduct a couple of seminars on the subject last year in town.
It's also undoubtedly controversial, and Miranda later dropped his idea of trying to get the council to vote on putting a measure on this week's ballot on having citizens weigh in on the topic, realizing that it's an issue that the public needs a lot of education on before considering.
We're reviving the issue because USA Today's cover story this Thursday reports that Singapore is "aggressively promoting a solution to the water scarcity that vexes countries worldwide: recycling toilet water to drink."
The story's jump page headline is something that every reporter who writes about this always mentions, "Overcoming the 'yuck factor.'"
The article delves into many of the issues about the process that we explored in reporting on this last year. It reports that all water is to some extent, recycled:
River water often is treated and used by one city, then waste may be funneled into pipes and discharged downstream, according to Benedek.
Some environmental groups are betting that as knowledge about wastewater recycling grows, so will its adoption across the USA. Besides alleviating drinking water shortages, the technology means less waste discharged into the ocean, says Rick Wilson, coastal management coordinator at Surfrider Foundation, an advocacy group for oceans and beaches.
The promise is leading San Diego, on the heels of neighboring Orange County's momentum, to give the technology another shot. It plans to open a test wastewater purification facility, producing 1 million gallons of water a day, to the public in June.
Says Alma Rife of the San Diego Public Utilities Department: "Once people understand this, the yuck factor breaks away."
CL asked both Bob Buckhorn and Rose Ferlita about IPR during our debate last month, and we believe both said they were open to learning more about the process. We'll be curious to see if Councilman Miranda opts to revive the issue.