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The Trash We Drink Changes Us, Water Wars Imminent

October 20, 2007


National Small Flows Clearinghouse: for use by Purdue University**
Wastewater CharacteristicsWhat is in Wastewater?Important CharacteristicsHow is Treatment Achieved?Testing and Measuring WastewaterReducing Wastewater Helps,

Basic Wastewater Characteristics

Do you know what happens to your wastewater after you take a shower, wash dishes, or flush the toilet? Where exactly does it go? What is in it? How does it affect the environment? And why should you care?

Most people, never give much thought to what happens to the wastewater from your home and community. But whether you think about it much or not, wastewater continues to affect your life even after it disappears down the drain.

How Wastewater Affects You: The water we use never really goes away. In fact, there never will be any more or any less water on Earth than there is right now, which means that all of the wastewater generated by our communities each day from homes, farms, businesses, and factories eventually returns to the environment to be used again. So, when wastewater receives inadequate treatment, the overall quality of the world’s water supply suffers.

Locally, the amount of wastewater homes and communities produce, its characteristics, and how it is handled can greatly impact residents’ quality of life. Wastewater has the potential to affect public health, the local economy, recreation, residential and business development, utility bills, taxes, and other aspects of everyday life.


Because small community residents, in particular, are more likely to be directly responsible for making decisions about their wastewater, it is important that they know something about its characteristics (that is, its components, strength, volume, and flow) and how certain characteristics can affect their lives.
Ground water provides drinking water for more than one-half of the Nation’s population (Solley and others, 1993), and is the sole source of drinking water for many rural communities and some large cities. In 1990, ground water accounted for 39 percent of water withdrawn for public supply for cities and towns and 96 percent of water withdrawn by self-supplied systems for domestic use.

A variety of chemicals, including nitrate, can pass through the soil and potentially contaminate ground water. Nitrate comes from nitrogen, a plant nutrient supplied by inorganic fertilizer and animal manure. Additionally, airborne nitrogen compounds given off by industry and automobiles are deposited on the land in precipitation and dry particles. Other nonagricultural sources of nitrate include lawn fertilizers, septic systems, and domestic animals in residential areas.

The risk of ground-water contamination by nitrate depends both on the nitrogen input to the land surface and the degree to which an aquifer is vulnerable to nitrate leaching and accumulation. Variables describing nitrogen input and aquifer vulnerability were estimated and compiled in a national map (figure 1) using procedures described by Nolan and others (1997). The map shows four levels of contamination risk of shallow ground water (less than 100 feet deep):

(1) low nitrogen input and low aquifer vulnerability (green area on the map);
(2) low nitrogen input and high aquifer vulnerability (yellow area);
(3) high nitrogen input and low aquifer vulnerability (orange area); and
(4) high nitrogen input and high aquifer vulnerability (red area).

Contaminants may include organic and inorganic substances.

Some organic water pollutants are:

  • Insecticides and herbicides, a huge range of organohalide and other chemicals
  • Bacteria, often is from sewage or livestock operations
  • Food processing waste, including pathogens
  • Tree and brush debris from logging operations
  • VOCs (Volatile organic compounds), such as industrial solvents, from improper storage
  • Petroleum Hydrocarbons including fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuels, and fuel oils) and lubricants (motor oil) from oil field operations, refineries, pipelines, retail service station’s underground storage tanks, and transfer operations. Note: VOCs include gasoline-range hydrocarbons.

Some inorganic water pollutants include:

The levels of contaminants in drinking water are seldom high enough to cause acute (immediate) health effects. Examples of acute health effects are nausea, lung irritation, skin rash, vomiting, dizziness, and even death. Contaminants are more likely to cause chronic health effects – effects that occur long after repeated exposure to small amounts of a chemical. Examples of chronic health effects include cancer, liver and kidney damage, disorders of the nervous system, damage to the immune system, and birth defects.

Evidence relating chronic health effects to specific drinking water contaminants is limited. In the absence of exact scientific information, scientists predict the likely adverse effects of chemicals in drinking water using human data from clinical reports and epidemiological studies, and laboratory animal studies.

What human concerns should focus on is the MIX. Combine any 2 or 3 components listed and the permutations are endless for toxic cocktails. Chemical pollutants quietly degrade, change properties, morph, mutate and become dangerous. For the past 150 years, when Americans ruined one source of water, they just moved along to the next available water source. The toll on potable water has finally caught up to humans – so many years of inadequate attention to future water conditions has created a state of emergency. Diagnose your water here. What will humans do after their basic DNA and genetic code has permanently altered? Ever wonder why general human intelligence is dropping so profoundly and appears to be sliding backwards into the dark ages of superstition? Falling intellect combined with more lethal weaponry, increased reliance on computer decisions, limited awareness about ecosystems and biosphere, has created it’s own ecological Armageddon. Contaminants are changing human DNA, immune systems and mental capacity to recognize the consequences of their actions. These symptoms are creeping throughout the human race. Awareness and action are necessary to find solutions and reverse the damage if it’s not too late. The earth recycles itself with the help from occasional extraterrestrial interference. We are demanding a lot from this planet to clean up after itself and it’s parasites, too. There will be water wars if the trend is not stopped … cities are starting to reel from water problems and solutions are expensive. People are already loosing patience. The water they took for granted for so long is disappearing.

With the great meltdown in our future, what exotic toxins will we be floating in?  Is there a life raft capable of holding the world population?  Was Katrina a glimpse of what’s to come?

Related water concerns:

The Trash We Drink Changes Us, Water Wars Imminent

Water water, dirty water, fuel for war

Unprepared, Careless and Incapable In 2012

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