This report assesses the health effects and safety of using reclaimed water as a sole source or as a component of the potable water supply. The report was prepared by the Committee to Evaluate the Viability of Augmenting Potable Water Supplies With Reclaimed Water, which was appointed by the National Research Council (NRC) to evaluate issues associated with potable reuse of municipal wastewater. The committee members were appointed based on their widely recognized expertise in municipal water supply, wastewater reclamation and reuse, and public health. In its evaluation, the committee considered the following questions:

  • What are the appropriate definitions of water reuse? What distinguishes indirect from direct reuse?
  • What are the considerations for ensuring reliability and for evaluating the suitability of a water source augmented with treated wastewater?
  • Given the recent health-effect studies that have been conducted, what further research is required?

The committee based its evaluation on published literature and the expertise of committee members and others consulted during this project. The committee used as its starting point the findings and recommendations of a 1982 NRC committee that examined quality criteria that should be applied when a degraded water supply is used as a drinking water source (see Box 1-1). As part of its information gathering effort, the committee hosted a two-day workshop in Irvine, California, featuring principal investigators and project managers of several of the potable reuse projects that have conducted analytical and health-effect studies.

The committee views the planned use of reclaimed water to augment potable water supplies as a solution of last resort, to be adopted only when all other alternatives for nonpotable reuse, conservation, and demand management have been evaluated and rejected as technically or economically infeasible. This report should help communities considering potable reuse make decisions that will protect the populations they serve. Some of the issues relate to similar concerns for drinking water sources that receive incidental or unplanned upstream wastewater discharges.

This chapter describes the history of potable reuse of municipal wastewater, defines the different types of potable reuse, provides an overview of wastewater treatment technologies applicable to potable reuse projects, and describes existing federal guidelines and state regulations covering potable reuse. Chapter 2 describes the chemical contaminants found in wastewater, treatments aimed at reducing them, and issues re-

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