Waste Water?

Manure.  One stage in a rich, life-giving cycle from sun, soil, and water, to  plant, to animal, to kitchen table, and back to the soil again. Sometimes we call manure animal waste. This term signifies a break in the natural  cycle, a break in our thinking about it, or both. Thinking of manure as waste rather than a critical contributor to soil replenishment is costly for food production, soil productivity, and the quality of our water.*

We have a similar break in the way we think about and use water. Whether it’s the chemicals we use to clean our homes; the stormwater running off our streets full of oil, grease, and salt from winter road-clearing; or the overabundance of nitrogen and phosporus coming from our sewage treatment plants and farm fields, we move it down stream. Out of sight, out of mind.

March 22 is World Water Day. This year’s theme is “Water and Wastewater”. Let’s think about the term wastewater for a minute. If you’re reading this, you’re already well-versed in the water cycle. You know the water you drink was at some point the animal waste of a Tyrannosaurus or Velociraptor. If you live in a community that draws its water from a river – the Ohio, the Mississippi, and others – you are probably aware that someone else’s wastewater is your drinking water.

Wastewater. I know there are talented, insightful professionals that use this term all the time.  I respectfully suggest that we ought to stop.  This message is the essence of the World Water Day theme. Perhaps if we stopped calling our water waste, we would start treating it as if none of it was expendable, as if we knew that we, or someone we love would be drinking that water sooner or later.

Here are just a few examples of organizations that recognize and communicate that no water is wastewater. Feel free to share more with us here.
*For more information about the value of manure for soil health (and impacts on water), see an excellent round table series covering manure and soil healh issues including manure and soil health testing, manure and soil health biology, manure and soil health erosion and losses, and manure and cover crops. This series is sponsored by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and the North Central Region Water Network.
If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at rlpower@wisc.edu.

Rebecca Power, Network Director

  1. Great Article!!!!
    Find your article useful and valuable. As we also manufacture organic waste to water machines. Our automated machine transforms your organic wet waste into water in 20 hrs.

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