Clean Your Dirty Mind: Wastewater and Psychology

Cool, crisp, clean, clear water. In the hot summer days of August, there is nothing better. We run to the faucet or Brita Pitcher when temperatures reach over 100 degrees. Imagine a truly sizzling hot day, running for the tap, turning on the cold faucet and the water that comes out is not the regular water you are used to, but cleaned wastewater. As the name implies, cleaned wastewater is water that “has been used in your toilet or sink or shower is purified through a variety of technological processes that make it clean enough to drink” (Alix Spiegel, NPR Article)  Would you feel the same relief from the heat? Or would your mind stop you from enjoying the cool glass of water?

Some scholars say yes.  Dr. Carol Nemeroff, of the University of Southern Maine speculates that many people are not able to get over the “ick” factor of drinking water that could have previously been found in their toilet. The scientific term, contagion, refers to the phenomenon of people thinking that once something has contact with another thing, those two things are always joined. In this case, water and your toilet.  Significant research of over 2,000 people suggests that it is difficult for people to dispel this kind of thinking; regardless of if it is scientifically proven that the cleaned wastewater is safe for consumption.

Therefore, getting Americans on board for the use of wastewater as drinking water may involve less science, and more psychology. The key it seems is to change the identity of the filtered water by connecting it closer to nature. As water reuse expert Dr. Haddad says, people feel more comfortable if the treated water sits in an underground aquifer for a significant period of time. However, this brings up additional problems, as exposing already treated water back to nature can have negative effects on the quality of the water.

It is clear that our water thinking has a significant impact on the way water is used and distributed in this country. Now that we have the science to turn wastewater into drinkable water, we need to find a way to change its identity so that people no longer have visions of drinking water formally found in the bottom of a bath tub or toilet bowl.

Anti-Bottled Water Celebrities

Last week, we did a blog post on celebrities for bottled water.  You didn’t just think we’d leave you hanging without presenting the other side of the equation, did you?  The celebrities for bottled water endorse the commodity by giving it a sexy image.  It appears that those against bottled water bring a little more to the table than a sexy appearance.  Whose side are you on?

Oprah Winfrey

One of the most followed and admired television faces in America added the environment to her list of favorite things over a year ago.  Along with reusable grocery bags and Seventh Generation cleaning products, Oprah has switched to reusable water bottles to reduce plastic bottle waste.

Adam Yauch

Former Beastie Boys rapper, Adam Yauch, calls out Nestle, Pepsi and Coca-Cola in his award-winning documentary film Flow: For Love of Water. The movie bashes bottled water companies for their “privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh-water supply.”  See our list of must-watch water movies for more information on Flow along with other, similar films.

Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper and Relentless 7

This year, Dave Matthews Band, Ben Harper and Relentless 7 are all teaming up with Brita, Nalgene and the Filter for Good campaign to rid their summer tours of plastic water bottles.  At each concert, refilling stations will be set up where fans can obtain and refill free, reusable water bottles.  These stations will also supply further information on ways to conserve and protect the planet.  Brita’s Filter for Good channel, featuring DMB and other similar artists, is available on Pandora.  I think it’s safe to assume that when Dave wrote “Don’t Drink the Water,” he must have been talking about the bottled kind.

Kelly Osbourne

Feeling guilty about sipping bottled spring water, earlier this year daughter of rock star Ozzy Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne, pledged to go green by giving up bottled water, in order to help the environment.

Gisele Bundchen

Brazilian supermodel, Gisele Bundchen has been spotted several times with a SIGG reusable water bottle.  Though it’s uncertain whether she does so in an effort to preserve the environment, it is questionable, considering her marriage to Tom Brady who is actively involved in the Smart Water ad campaigns.

Cindy Crawford

Clearly bottled water companies aren’t the only ones who realize that sexy sells.  Two years ago, PUR Water Filtration partnered with supermodel Cindy Crawford to promote the use of filtered water over bottled.

Garrison Keillor

TreeHugger cites a quote from Garrison Keillor on the wastefulness of bottled water, from a 2007 article in the Salt Lake Tribune.  This Minnesota public radio show host turned his back on bottled water once he realized that tap is just as good or better.  We advocate filtered tap, of course.