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Jan 07, 2015

Bill Gates Drank What?

The Web has been buzzing this week over a new video featuring Bill Gates – and when the video is featured in articles with titles like “Watch Bill Gates Drink Water That Had Been Poop Just Moments Before,” how could people not pay attention?

The video in question was posted on Gates’ blog, and features the Janicki Omniprocessor, a machine that takes wastewater sludge and transforms into drinking water and energy (I’ll let the video do the talking as to how this process takes place). At the end of the video, Gates’ does indeed drink a glass of water fresh from the machine.

Although the video aims to raise awareness about the millions of people worldwide who lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation, I think it holds some important lessons for those of us who do have access to adequate water and wastewater treatment as well. As water resources become scarcer and we search for new water sources, terms like “toilet to tap” are popping up more frequently here in the U.S. Direct potable reuse of wastewater could be a boon to drought-affected areas – but encouraging public support for it can be difficult due to the “ick factor.”

While awareness of water treatment and reuse technologies is on the rise, it is clear from the blunt article titles I mentioned that the ick factor is still alive and well. Hopefully, videos such as this one will help ease the worries and encourage education on the technologies available to turn wastewater into drinking water.