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FOCUS: Why we might need to learn to drink treated toilet water

FOCUS: Why we might need to learn to drink treated toilet water

Wednesday 14 September 2022

FOCUS: Why we might need to learn to drink treated toilet water

Wednesday 14 September 2022


Islanders may well have to have to get used to drinking water recycled from toilets, sinks and washing machines if we are going to avoid flooding a reservoir or extending an existing one, Jersey Water has said.

Reusing treated effluent is a tried and tested method of maximising the use of water.

Another self-governing island with limited water resources, Singapore, is investing millions of dollars in increasing the amount of sewage that is used again.

Recycled wastewater can now meet 40% of Singapore’s water demand, a figure that is expected to rise to 55% by 2060.

While most is used for industrial purposes, some of it is added to drinking water supplies in reservoirs in the city-state of 5.7 million people.

Recently, the head of the UK’s Environment Agency said that people needed to be “less squeamish” about drinking from sewage treatment plants. 

Sir James Bevan told the Sunday Times said that drinking water reprocessed from sewage is “perfectly safe and healthy, but not something many people fancy”.

Mark Bowden, Jersey Water’s Asset Manager, said that the technology was neither new nor radical, nor did it appear that islanders were averse to the idea of drinking treated sewage.

“The process for treating sewage effluent could be described as ‘desalination+’ he said. “It is a multi-stage process involving coagulation, clarification, blending, filtration, and advanced reverse oxidation, followed by disinfection and conditioning.

“In some ways, effluent reuse already happens in the UK when treated sewage is released into a river, then downstream, water is abstracted to be treated and distributed for drinking.”

Mark Bowden Jersey Water.jpg

Pictured: Jersey Water's Asset Manager Mark Bowden.

Mr Bowden said that Jersey Water had considered effluent reuse in its 2018 Resource Management Plan.

Then, it had set up focus groups to assess people’s reaction to the idea of drinking treated sewage. Far from being squeamish, most people took a practical stance, he said, expressing their trust in Jersey Water to treat it properly. 

In its latest ‘Water Resources and Drought Management Plan’, published last year, the company considered treating water from Bellozanne but excluded the option, preferring 11 others instead, including increasing reservoir storage and extending the desalination plant at La Moye.

The measures are being considered to meet an expected water shortfall caused by a rising population and global warming. 

However, Mr Bowden said that recycling wastewater from Bellozanne could return as one of a range of options to meet the expected shortfall.

It would have to be supplemented with other measures because even if every litre of flushed toilet water, shower run-off or emptied bucket was used, there would still be an 8m-litre-a-day shortfall in times of serious drought. 

Bellozanne.jpg

Pictured: The Government is currently building a new water treatment plant at Bellozanne.

He added that any system would likely to be ‘indirect’, in that the treated waste water would be added to and blended with raw water in reservoirs, rather than kept separate and recycled, as treated waste water is in submarines and oil rigs.

Jersey Water supplies an average of around 20m litres of water per day to some 37,000 homes and 3,600 commercial properties.

Each islander uses, on average, 115 litres a day when one adds all the showers, baths, washing machine cycles and dishwasher runs that frequently occur in households.

That number has come down since Jersey Water started installing smart meters, which allow both the company and customers to keep track of water usage. 

Estimated water demand under dry weather conditions for Jersey Water is expected to increase by 15% from around 21m litres per day in 2019-20 to nearly 24m litres a day by 2044-45.

The company has raised the prospect of flooding another valley, including Mourier Valley in St. Mary, to meet future demand; however, Mr Bowden said that islanders may regard drinking treated wastewater as a more palatable alternative to losing land to a reservoir.

He added that the island would have regularly run out of water had not Queen’s Valley been flooded in the 1980s.

Jersey Water recently brought in a hosepipe ban, which could last four months, in response to this summer's long dry spell. 

It is also running the desalination plant at La Moye to help refill depleted reservoirs.

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Posted by Private Individual on
I know it's not April the 1st because I just looked at the calendar!

How about the water works, company do these simple things to start with before we are all forced to drink and shower and wash our clothes in other people's effluent.

1. Stop the millions of gallons being lost to leaks.
2. Stop the massive bonuses going to the shareholders of the water works company and fix the leaks.
3. Lobby the government to stop the massive amount of immigration coming into the island that uses water.
4. Limit the amount of concrete that builders are allowed to pour, this is linked directly to the amount of people living on the island.
5. Lobby the government that all new development's setup catchment tanks that store rain water that can be pumped into the reservoirs instead of pouring it down the drains.

The health implications of using treated effluent are far-reaching, as we see more and viruses in the sewage that is being tested. What happens if just one virus gets through the cleaning process and infects the whole island population. What chemicals will be added into the water to treat it to make it safe for human consumption?

This is a ridiculous idea that needs consigning in the bin where it belongs along with the CEO that suggested it in the first place.
Posted by Simon Langlois on
All our mains water is of the highest drinkable (potable) quality, so why on earth do we use it to flush toilets?

At home we've installed a rainwater harvesting system (RWH) which collects rainwater from the roof and driveway to use for toilet flushing, garden watering, car washing, etc., none of which needs to be potable.

Other water saving systems include grey water recycling where waste water from showers, basins, washing machines, dishwashers, etc. can be used for toilet flushing and the like.

It would be good to see these established technologies incorporated into the Building Regulations (along with solar panels) so that all new developments help reduce the demand on Jersey Water.

We should look at all the options before even thinking about losing another valley.
Posted by mark carden on
It already tastes and looks like toilet water.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
I have been on about this for years, WHY are we not using "brown" water for flushing toilets, watering the garden, car washing etc. It really is not too difficult and I'm certain that our plumbers could manage to install such systems in all new properties.
It is also time to stop using so much concrete and non-porous paying.
We don't want to lose another valley, nor do we want to drink toilet water.
Posted by Private Individual on
Just for clarity, this is show much water is needed to make concrete.

You will need 220 litres of water with mix of 403kg (8 bags of 50kg cement), 15 cubic feet of sand and 30 cubic feet of aggregate to produce one cubic meter (1m3) of M20 concrete with suitable mix in the ratio of 1:1.5:3 (1 part cement to 1.5 parts sand & 3 parts aggregate by volume) to gain 20 MPa strength of concrete.

Regarding this, “how much water do I need for 1m3 concrete?”, for producing one cubic meter of m20 concrete will require 220 litres of water on mild exposure condition, while M15 concrete will require 190 litres and M25 concrete will require 280 litres of water on exposure to moderate climatic condition.

This quantity of water little may change due to different exposure condition.

The construction industry is THE MAIN CONSUMER OF WATER ON THE ISLAND.
Posted by Steven Simon on
Can jersey water clarify that they are blending contaminated water within the plume area for PFOS/PFAS as a result of the airport training ground back into reservoirs for consumption.
Now we are going to treat sewage water to be blended back into our water supply.

What will we be drinking in the future?
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