Q: Dear Owlie, my teacher mentioned today that water can be recycled too, but I am a little confused about how that works. I know paper and plastic can be recycled and turned into something else, but how does that apply to our water? I want to become a water recycling expert, so I can do everything in my power to not only conserve water, but help to recycle water too. Thanks Owlie!


Junior Water Connoisseur


A: Dear Junior Water Connoisseur

I am happy to hear from an inquisitive young scholar such as yourself, and it is great that you are trying to take an active role in the community! Water recycling is an important process that contributes to the maintenance of our water supply. Although wastewater is treated to be reused, it does not meet the standards of clean drinking water. Wastewater travels through a five-step process to effectively meet the standards of recycled water.

Preliminary TreatmentThe process begins with wastewater, or used water collected from showers, sinks, car washes, washing machines, toilets, etc. The water travels through pipes to water recycling plants where rakes are used to screen trash and large debris out of the water.

Primary Treatment Once all large objects have been removed, the wastewater travels to phase two where it is introduced to a substance called ferric chloride. This chemical helps solids settle down to the bottom of the tank for removal. Meanwhile, a large arm-like rake skims the top of the water to remove fats, oils and greases (FOG).

Secondary Treatment The next stage of treatment is a biological process that involves the use of microorganisms to eat away 90% of organic material in the wastewater.

Tertiary Treatment The water is passed through a filtration system that removes up to 99% of remaining solids in the water.

Disinfection After filtration, disinfection occurs when sodium hypochlorite, a super charged bleach, is mixed into the water for a minimum of 90 minutes to remove pathogens (bacteria, viruses, protozoa) in the water. 

Purple pipes act as an indication of recycled water being used, which means it is not drinkable. Recycled water is utilized for landscaping, golf courses, industrial cooling, and groundwater recharge. There is so much more out there for you to learn about recycled water! I have provided you with a good foundation, but now I want you to venture off and seek your own answers. Water Discovery Field Trip Registrations are now open for the 2019-2020 school year! My friends at Inland Empire Utilities Agency hold fun, educational and hands-on activities for ongoing field trips throughout the school year. Students fifth grade and up have an opportunity to visit a water recycling plant in person to see and learn about the process in person. Don’t forget to share your knowledge on recycled water with the rest of your friends in class!

See you real soo(HOO)n!