RECYCLING does not only apply to aluminium cans, glass bottles and newspapers — water can also be recycled.
Water recycling means reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a groundwater basin.
According to Indah Water Konsortium’s (IWK) former chief executive officer, Datuk Abdul Kadir Mohd Din, the treated wastewater produced by IWK in 2014 in 6,000 plants amounted to 4,000 million litres a day, which is a quarter of the water used for drinking.
If that huge amount of recycled water is used for non-potable purposes, Malaysia could save tap water for other necessary usage, such as human consumption.
Water recycling could be the sustainable alternative water source and it is a reliable source, especially during drought as the wastewater is produced every single day at any time.
Wastewater is available in significant volumes that increase with urban growth.
It is predicted that there might be water shortages for certain countries in future. Hence, Malaysia should really consider recycled water for non-potable uses, as well as other options such as surface run-off water.
Diversifying our water sources helps ensure water security. As the recent water crisis showed, it will be imprudent to just rely on rivers for our water needs.
The United Nations warns that half the world population will face water scarcity by 2030, due to accelerated climate change and population growth. Wide scale and long-term water shortages could affect food production, as well as cause major health crisis due to increased exposure to unsanitary water.
Insufficient clean water has already killed millions of people through waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.
Here are some benefits of using wastewater as a resource:
REDUCE water bills;
USEf ewer water resources;
IRRIGATE the garden during drought or water restrictions;
CUT down the amount of pollution going into waterways;
HELP save money on new infrastructure for water supplies and wastewater treatment; and,
DECREASE demand on use of infrastructure for sewage transport, treatment and disposal, allowing them to work better and last longer.
Recycling wastewater from sinks, showers and the dishwasher can be done at home. Called grey water, it can be used to wash cars, water plants and to flush the toilet. However, the recycled water is non-potable. Using grey water for non-potable purposes, can reduce the water bill and save water, especially during droughts.
Recycled water can satisfy most water demands, as long as it is treated adequately.
However, most of the public might be skeptical about using recycled water. The thought of using recycled water for daily chores is disgusting. To change this mindset, more education and awareness on this matter should be done.
There are always ways to resolve the water crisis. Water players and utility entities need to look for other options rather than fully rely on the current water resources to meet a water demand that keeps rising with urban growth.
NUR IMANI ABDULLAH, Research and policy executive, Water and Energy Consumer Association.