Embracing Recycled Water: A Conversation with Ben Glickstein at WateReuse Association

By Cori Watkins, contributing editor, UV Solutions

According to the YouTube video How the Water You Flush Becomes the Water You Drink ¹, enough wastewater is generated globally to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day. Ben Glickstein, director of communications, WateReuse Association, explained how his organization, in collaboration with IUVA and other programs, is making the term “wastewater” obsolete.

Tell us about the WateReuse Association.

The WateReuse Association is the nation’s only trade association solely dedicated to advancing laws, policy, funding and public acceptance of recycled water. Established in California in 1990, WateReuse now has members in 38 states, the District of Columbia and 11 countries.

How did you get involved in the industry?

My background is in community engagement for large infrastructure projects. I became interested in water reuse as a sustainable and resilient tool that can help us weather the effects of climate change. I’m not an engineer myself but I’ve discovered that I love working with engineers and water experts to help explain complicated, technical ideas to a broad audience.

How do you feel about drinking water that originally was wastewater?

I feel great about it! It’s important to remember that all water is recycled. There’s no such thing as new water, and we’re drinking the same water the dinosaurs did. Some of it is recycled through natural processes like evaporation and precipitation; and in most cases, we’re drinking water that already has been used, treated and discharged by another community upstream from us. The technology to treat clean, safe drinking water through the advanced purification of recycled water has been proven and implemented for over half a century, and the final product is often cleaner than existing water sources. I look forward to seeing drinking water applications of water recycling in many more communities within the next decade.

Will most communities embrace drinking recycled water?

I think they will. Every community is unique, so it’s important that water utilities start communicating early and clearly about their plans. Surveys in water-stressed areas of Texas, California and other states routinely have shown majority support for drinking-quality recycled water, and levels of support only increase as more information is provided. For communities where drought isn’t top of mind, even more outreach and education may be important. At WateReuse Association, we convene regular meetings, conferences and webcasts to share information and best-practices for public education around the topic of water recycling.

Why are recycled water programs so important in communities around the world?

Water recycling is a multi-benefit solution that can help solve common water challenges, including water supply, water quality, environmental compliance, aging infrastructure and more. Communities across the world are incorporating water reuse into their water management strategies as a proven method for ensuring a safe, reliable, locally controlled water supply – essential for livable communities with healthy environments, robust economies and a high quality of life. Investment in water reuse builds communities that are modern, sustainable and stable – ready for families to flourish and businesses to grow.

What impact can these two associations have together?

WateReuse Association and IUVA have partnered for years to advance water reuse and advance the understanding and use of ultraviolet technology as part of water recycling treatment trains. IUVA has been a supporting organization for the annual WateReuse Symposium for many years. Presenters associated with IUVA also have highlighted ultraviolet treatment topics at many WateReuse events, webcasts and Symposia.

WateReuse Association can help advance understanding of ultraviolet treatment technologies through educational tools and events. IUVA offers technical expertise that we can share with our membership. I would encourage anyone working on ultraviolet water treatment technologies to join us at one of our upcoming events, such as our November 2024 Industrial Water Reuse Conference in Southern California, or our March 2025 Symposium in Tampa, Florida.

  1. How the Water You Flush Becomes the Water you Drink YouTube Video, Francis de los Reyes, TED-Ed
  2. August 2023, https://www.ted.com/talks/francis_de_los_reyes_how_the_water_you_flush_becomes_the_water_you_drink