By recycling water, local and federal governments can reuse a precious and limited resource and lighten the heavy burden on their water reserves. Water recycling is especially important in areas that suffer from heavy droughts or limited fresh water sources. However, water recycling comes with a few downsides.
Recycling water and reusing recycled water comes with several costs. Local and federal governments must build and maintain water-recycling facilities, including the cost of labour and basic maintenance. They have to build and install pipes to collect the used water, also known as grey water, and transport it to the recycling facility, as well as pipes to send recycled water from the facility. In order to use recycled water at home, consumers will need to install a second water line to separate the grey water from the fresh water. This is an easier goal in underdeveloped areas, but established cities require the additional cost of tearing up roadways and buildings to install pipes.
Once water flushes through a toilet or pours down a sink, most people do not like the idea of using it again. Lack of knowledge about the treatment process for recycled water or general misconceptions lead many people to feel recycled water is not clean or safe for use. Several local governments have launched campaigns designed to educate consumers on the need for water recycling. However, some cities continue to vote against the use of recycled water in their homes. For example, in 2006, Toowoomba, Australia, rejected a referendum to use recycled water as drinking water, according to "Cosmos" magazine.
While all water sources, especially recycled water, go through an intense treatment process, some health concerns still exist. Many things can end up in a water stream, such as cleaning products, chemicals, pesticides and medicines. According to Richard Gersberg, professor of environmental health at San Diego State University, microbial pathogens, such as the hepatitis virus, and bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, are also present in wastewater. Despite treatment and testing by the Environmental Protection Agency, these contaminates could make it into potable water sources, the water used for drinking and bathing.