Potable reuse

Around the world, recycled water for drinking in known by various names, including potable reuse, purified recycled water, repurified water, manufactured water, and new water.  The terms generally refer to wastewater that has been purified to drinking quality standards using advanced technologies such as membrane filtration, advanced oxidation, chemical clarification and ultraviolet technologies, in addition to conventional water treatment processes.

Key definitions

Potable reuse is the practice of reclaiming a high quality water from a municipal wastewater and using the reclaimed water to augment a community’s drinking water supply

The feature of indirect potable reuse is that the reclaimed water is first returned to some form of environmental system, such as a river, dam or aquifer. From that point, the water may be mixed with other sources of water prior to being extracted for further treatment and use as drinking water.

Direct Potable Reuse is the practice of injecting reclaimed water directly into either a community’s drinking water distribution system downstream of a conventional water treatment plant, or into the source water supply immediately upstream of the water treatment plant.

Common terms

AQUIFER RECHARGE: The process of water being purified by percolating through soil or by direct injection into an underground aquifer.

NON-POTABLE: Water not suitable for drinking.

NON-POTABLE REUSE: Includes all recycled or reclaimed water reuse applications except those related to producing drinking water.

POTABLE REUSE: The practice of reclaiming a high quality water from a municipal wastewater and using the reclaimed water to augment a community’s drinking water supply.

POTABLE WATER: Drinking quality water.

RAW WATER: Untreated water.

RECYCLED WATER OR RECLAIMED WATER: (terms are interchangeable) Water that originated as municipal wastewater and has undergone a high level of treatment at a reclamation facility so that it can be beneficially reused for a variety of purposes. The degree of treatment for recycled water depends on the water quality needed for the specific use and for public health protection.

RESERVOIR: A body of water used to collect and store water, or a tank or cistern used to store potable water.

REUSE: To use again; recycle; to intercept, either directly or by exchange, water that would otherwise return to the natural hydrologic (water) system, for subsequent beneficial use.

STORAGE: Water held in a reservoir for later use.

SURFACE WATER: Water located on the Earth’s surface.

WASTEWATER: Water that has been previously used by a municipality, industry, or agriculture and has suffered a loss of quality as a result of use.


Water reuse – feasible and safe

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) investigated the potential of direct potable reuse as a water supply option. This independent, peer-reviewed, internationally recognised report confirmed potable reuse was technically feasible and could safely be supplied directly into the water distribution system.  The report makes six recommendations to stimulate adoption.