The Racine Journal-Times Sunday Bulletin from Racine, Wisconsin on July 18, 1965 · Page 42
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The Racine Journal-Times Sunday Bulletin from Racine, Wisconsin · Page 42

Racine, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 18, 1965
Page 42
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Page 42 article text (OCR)

The DISHPAN WATER You May Drink Tomorrow! America faces a water crisis hy 1980—unless ive start reusing the valuable liquid going down our drains and kitchen sinks By RONALD M. DEUTSCH N OT LONG AGO, a housewife in suburban Los Angeles turned on a faucet in her kitchen and launched a revolution. The reason: some of the water which poured into her dishpan had been there before. Passing from her sink to the sewers, it had been purified \^ and returned to the town's water supply. \ To some, the use of dishpan water may seem unsafe—and unpleasant. It needn't be. But like it or not, quite a few Americans are using reclaimed water, and it seems only a matter of time until the rest of us join them. Experts agree that the reuse of our water is a must. Already, Congress has authorized the U. S. Public Health Service to help set up pilot programs, while across the nation, towns are starting to rescue the water from sewage. On Long Island, just outside New York City, a new plant soon will be returning 15 million gallons of waste water a day to the supply of usable water. In Los Angeles County, four plants already are returning five percent of the waste water to usefulness. Plans now are complete to raise that total to 33 percent. Why reclaim the used water from our kitchens, baths, and factories ? We have no choice. Scientists predict that, by 1980 the water needs of the United States will exceed the amount available. Many areas are now operating on a water deficit. In Texas alone, 600 communities are using ground water faster tiian it can be replaced. In some coastal areas, so much water has been takeh from the earth that sea water has percolated miles inland, ruining essentia] wells. Some cities are already paying the price of water exhaustion. For a time, drinking water in Chanute, Kah., had to be bought in bottles at |3.50 for five gallons! This impending water crisis is linked directly with the requirements of our industrial socie^ in which each of us has water needs far beyond our imaginingiT To support the needs of each American, we use 500 gallons a day for farm irrigation, 300 gallons a day for fuel and electrical power, and 65 gallons a day for household uses. This last figure does not include the floods of water many of us use in our gardens. Then there is the incredible amount of water needed to supply our simplest wants. To produce a single loaf of bread takes a whopping 100 gallons of water! Can't w« tak* water from th« s«a? This seems reasonable enough. But the sea is so full of salt and other minerals that no economical way has yet been found. Desalting is practical if we get so thirsty we will pay any price for water— or learn some cheap way of removing the salt with electricity or nuclear energy. But even if a solution is found, desalting takes place at the sea. Where does this leave America's inland cities? Even at tiie coast line, desalting is done at sea level. The cost of pumping the water uphill is another obstacle. When scientists first began to look into the water crisis almost 15 years ago, they realized there was nothing new about reclainMd water. , But we have waited for nature to do the job. \ Nature has two ways qf handling the pdlution problem. Most of our used water goes to the sea. H^re it is evaporated into the skies, from which it i^^lls as rain. Nature also cleanses by filtering: letting water trickle through soil. The trickling process screens out most liarmful bacteria and sediment. This purified ground water keeps our streams running and our lakes full. Also at work cleaning our water are certain organisms. These digest many pollutants. To do their work they need plenty of oxygen, which they get best at the surface of lakes and in bubbling streams or in certain soils. As this century dawned, we realized we could no longer let mature do all the purifying. Our land was too crowded. So we began to run water through artificial fflters and to inject chlorine to kill any remaining germs. Today many inland areas use such methods to make safe the water which has been polluted by towns upstream. In effect, they are using waste water. If such cities could reuse polluted water, why couldn't a town process the water from its own sewage? Engineers saw no great obstacles. Some pilot attempts succeeded on a very small scale. Then in 1961 Congress amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to create the Advanced Waste Treatment Research Program of the Public Health Service. Its aim? "To develop and demonstrate practicable means of treating municipal sewage and other waterbome wastes ... in order to restore and maintain the maximum amount of the nation's water at a quality suitable for reuse." WMi sctontific gwidanc* and financial help from the program, many towns now are putting the idea to work. The biggest locally sponsored achievement to date is the Whittier Narrows water-reclamation plant of Los Angeles County's sanitation districts. The plant takes the sewage from an enormous area—millions of gallons a day. First, the solid matter is effectively settled out in tanks; next, a special culture of cleansing organisms goes into the water and is helped along by bubbling aeration which fills the water with oxygen. Chlorine is injected for further purification. There is another step which soon may be virtually eliminated. This is circulating air and water to foam away the detergents in the water. On June 30, in a voluntary move, the nation's detergent makers changed their products in a way which will make water reclamation much easier. The change does not lessen cleaning power, but it takes out perhaps 90 percent of the foaming residue which had remained in reclaimed water, making it unappealing. This residue is presently being foamed away at Whittier Narrows at a high price. How good is tho wator It producosT It is clear, has no unpleasant taste or odor, and is clean. For two years, scientists from the California Institute of Technology have studied the water with painstaking care. They find it is astonishingly free of dangerous microorganisms. But even so, the Whittier Narrows water does not go directly back into local water lines. Instead, it is pumped into spreading basins. There it settles through sand and soil into the groundwater supply of the county. Diluted by the ground water, it is then pumped into the community from wells. Scientists pronounce the Whittier Narrows plant an unqualified success. It cost less than*|2 million. Yet it daily turns out 12 million gallons of reclaimed water, enough for the household needs of up to 200,000 persons. So efficient is the plant that it is run by one man. The cost FamUy Weekly, July IS, 1965

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