Gauteng and NW Province

Water Recycling and Reuse: The Environmental Benefits

Extract from United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

What Is Water Recycling?

Recycle: verb

  1. a. To recover useful materials from garbage or waste
    b. To extract and reuse.

While recycling is a term generally applied to aluminum cans, glass bottles, and newspapers, water can be recycled as well. Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a ground water basin (referred to as ground water recharge). Water recycling offers resource and financial savings. Wastewater treatment can be tailored to meet the water quality requirements of a planned reuse. Recycled water for landscape irrigation requires less treatment than recycled water for drinking water. No documented cases of human health problems due to contact with recycled water that has been treated to standards, criteria, and regulations have been reported.

Water is sometimes recycled and reused onsite. For example, when an industrial facility recycles water used for cooling processes. A common type of recycled water is water that has been reclaimed from municipal wastewater, or sewage. The term water recycling is generally used synonymously with water reclamation and water reuse.

Another type of recycled water is “gray water”.Gray water, or gray water, is reusable wastewater from residential, commercial and industrial bathroom sinks, bath tub shower drains, and clothes washing equipment drains.  Gray water is reused onsite, typically for landscape irrigation.  Use of non toxic and low-sodium (no added sodium or substances that are naturally high in sodium) soap and personal care products is required to protect vegetation when reusing gray water for irrigation. National Science Foundation (NSF) International has established a wastewater treatment task group on onsite residential and commercial gray water treatment systems. They have developed a draft new standard – NSF 350 – Onsite Residential and Commercial Reuse Treatment Systems.  This standard encompasses residential wastewater treatment systems (similar to the scope of VSF/ANSI Standards 40 and 245) along with systems that treat only the gray water portion. For more information visit the NSF website Exiting EPA (disclaimer).  EPA and CDC brought together agency and academic experts to explore the science available for addressing high-priority regional needs in the areas of:

  • Gray water exposure risk to humans and ecosystems;
  • risk management options for gray water;
  • water scarcity,
  • and trends in water use.

For more information visit EPA’s Regional Science Workshop website.

Through the natural water cycle, the earth has recycled and reused water for millions of years. Water recycling, though, generally refers to projects that use technology to speed up these natural processes. Water recycling is often characterized as “unplanned” or “planned.” A common example of unplanned water recycling occurs when cities draw their water supplies from rivers, such as the Colorado River and the Mississippi River, that receive wastewater discharges upstream from those cities. Water from these rivers has been reused, treated, and piped into the water supply a number of times before the last downstream user withdraws the water. Planned projects are those that are developed with the goal of beneficially reusing a recycled water supply.

 The most common recycling grey water system that we at Water Rhapsody install in South Africa is the Garden Rhapsody; a small affordable system for every household. In Gauteng the winter is dry and what better way to keep your garden going by using your own grey water? Water bought once, used twice.  Saving water and money at the same time.

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