Recycled Water & The Water Cycle
The Water Cycle. We learn it in elementary school, but what does the water cycle mean to us today? As our sources of water (rainfall, groundwater, seawater, recycled water, etc.) evolve, so does our sense of how water is connected on our planet. Mother Nature has been reusing water on Earth for a very long time. And though H2O is a simple molecule made up of three atoms, two hydrogens and one oxygen, water is surprisingly difficult to create or tear apart. This causes water to hold its structure as it is naturally recycled again and again.
How does water cycle on Earth? We had it mostly right in elementary school except for the human additions. Half of the process happens up in the sky with rain and clouds, but the other half happens on the surface, underground, and in treatment plants. Water is collected in lakes, rivers, streams, reservoirs, groundwater lakes and rivers (aquifers), and the sea. From there, it either continues on in the water cycle, it is used directly by plants and animals, or it is treated for human use. After plants and animals use water, it is released back into the atmosphere, the ground, or bodies of water. After humans use water, it is treated to remove pollutants before rejoining the natural water cycle.
With the advancement of water treatment technologies, we have found proven ways to treat water to higher standards, making it safe for more uses. Take recycled water for example. With the advanced technology we have today, we can produce purified water that is safe to put directly back into our drinking water supplies, either in the ground or in bodies of water. This technology enables us to do what nature does to clean water, but on a human time scale. We can recycle and use the water for everyday potable uses today and tomorrow, complementing Mother Nature and providing much needed drinking water for the community.