Tom Hanks has a very explicit house rule for his new boofhead dog of a pet (Hooch) when he instructs him most sternly that there is to be no drinking from the toilet. The good folks of Orange County (CA) are turning a deaf ear to mother’s advice and are going to be doing just that.
In a country afflicted by drought, in such a way that the dry continent shapes our perceptions of ourselves and what others think of us I was surprised to discover that we (Australia) are not the largest gross, or even per capita, users of water. The USA and places like India and Nigeria, Spain, Italy and China outstrip us. That is not to say that water conservation is not a critical discipline. I have nothing to back this assumption but I suspect generations of Australians, growing up in devastating periods of drought, have learned to be careful and effective water conservators, more so than other citizens around the globe. However, debates about recycled water are another thing and we join the noisy masses when politicians suggest we drink recycled water – especially noisy when we are told that we can drink water that once held sewage in suspension. Witness the hullabaloo when Sydney is presented with a desalination plant proposal to supplement our drinking water. And that is only salty water.
But the Orange County folk, hard pressed with few water resources of their own, and with rapidly depleting ground water resources have put in place a system for cleaning up and recycling their sewage so that the water is returned to their kitchen taps. The science is fascinating and convincing and I am the first to believe that this cleaned up water is more pure than that found in our rivers (sans fertilisers, hormones, chemicals and pharmaceuticals after all) but like most I suspect it will take a significant effort of will to not head for the bottled water in the fridge rather than turning on the tap in the kitchen. Blackbirds drowning in your house water tank – not quite in the same league as drinking water that you last saw get flushed out of the porcelain!!
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