Drinking treated sewage is the future, says EA chief

Sir James Bevan has said people need to be “less squeamish” about where drinking water comes from

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Drinking water derived from sewage could be part of the future, an agency head has said.

Water firms are reportedly planning “toilet-to-tap” schemes that will turn sewage from lavatories, sinks and bathtubs into drinking water after following a water treatment process.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Sir James Bevan, the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive said: “We will need to be less squeamish about where our drinking water comes from.

“Part of the future solution will be to reprocess the water that results from sewage treatment and turn it back into drinking water.

Sir James said it was “perfectly safe and healthy, but not something many people fancy.”

It is not the first time that water recycling plans are being explored.

Earlier this year, ELN reported that Cranfield University was appointed to undertake a study about public views on water recycling.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) told ELN: “Drinking water is a valuable resource. Its availability and resilience is something we have come to expect. However, increasing demand and the impact of climate change means that we need to consider alternative solutions to ensure a sufficient supply for the future.

“Water recycling is a promising alternative. We have already demonstrated our ability to ‘recycle’ water through the processes we use to treat wastewater to a standard where it can be discharged into our watercourses.

“An enhanced process for water recycling would deliver more clean water, more efficiently, to consumers.

“The DWI has commissioned an innovative research project to gauge consumer perceptions around water recycling to determine the future acceptability of the alternative approaches.”