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Disadvantages of Recycling Water

Matt Olberding

Recycling water involves reusing wastewater that has gone through a treatment process. The water is usually used for irrigation or industrial purposes, although there are a few places where recycled water is being used or considered for use as drinking water.

A worker is inspecting a water treatment facility.

Though the process has many benefits, most importantly the conservation of water in places where it is scarce, it also has disadvantages.


Using recycled water can mean increased costs for infrastructure such as additional treatment facilities and extra pipes to transport it. According to the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian city of Toowoomba planned to spend $68 million on a new wastewater treatment plant as part of its plan to use recycled water to supplement its drinking water supply. Another Australian city, Goulburn, planned to spend $32 million on a similar facility for the same purpose.

Public Perception

Using recycled water, especially as drinking water, requires overcoming public opinion, which can be difficult. For instance, Wollongong University surveyed 1,000 Australians in 2007 about recycled water. The results, which were reported in the Australian newspaper the Age, showed that 30 percent found the concept disgusting and 70 percent equated recycled water with "purified sewage." The plan to use recycled water for drinking in Toowoomba, Australia, described in Section 1, was actually voted down by residents.

Health Concerns

Recycled water used appropriately poses little to no health risk. Water that is recycled for drinking purposes goes through a rigorous treatment process that renders it as clean, if not cleaner than, water that comes from a reservoir. However, much of the recycled water used in the U.S. is for irrigation purposes and is not treated to a high enough standard to make it safe for drinking. Drinking this water could pose health risks to you, as there might still be pathogens present. For instance, the Scotts Valley Water District in California notes that recycled water there is not meant for consumption and any connection of the recycled water system to your residential plumbing system is a violation of building codes and a potential health risk.