Increased use "would result in significant health benefits"
That’s the takeaway of a study published today in the American Journal of Public Health. The study evaluated different ways California gets its water, from desalination to transporting it from the Colorado River. Using a holistic approach, researchers accounted for environmental impacts and the amount of energy each method consumes. Then they calculated the cumulative effects each method has on health, including illnesses and deaths from air pollution and the effects of climate change. The conclusion? Increased use of recycled water “would result in significant health benefits.”
The findings come at a critical moment. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization announced that one in every four deaths worldwide—12.6 million per year—can be attributed to environmental problems.
Godwin, who co-authored the paper with Brian Cole and Sharona Sokolow, both from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said conservation efforts should account for more than saving water.
“It’s important to look holistically at the health effects,” Godwin said. “Plenty of people have said there aren’t risks, but that doesn’t get you to the benefits.”
Those benefits become apparent when comparing recycled water to the energy-intensive system we now have. Air quality improves due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Green spaces can be maintained instead of being left to turn brown, encouraging people to get outside and exercise.
Recycled water also promotes environmental justice