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Obstacles to wastewater reuse: an overview

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With growing water scarcity worldwide, reclaimed wastewater is an increasingly attractive option for meeting household water demand, especially in urban areas. However, reluctance by households to use treated wastewater persists. In this article, we discuss the ‘yuck factor,’ health risk concerns, and cost considerations, which are key obstacles to wastewater reuse by households. We then summarize successful and unsuccessful case studies of wastewater reuse around the world. Reasons for the success (or failure) of each case study draws upon unique contextual, historical, and cultural circumstances. Direct potable reuse—where purified wastewater is added to the potable water supply directly—is rare; most successful projects are nonpotable wastewater reuse schemes—where purified water is placed into an environmental buffer before entering a drinking water distribution system. Our review of experiences around the world suggests approaches for improving public acceptability of wastewater reuse schemes. The literature also suggests that there is an urgent need to collect more wastewater treatment and reuse data, to research ways of better assessing and reducing health risk associated with emerging pollutants in reclaimed wastewater, and to better price both drinking water and recycled wastewater. WIREs Water 2015, 2:199–214. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1074

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