This is part of our Fun With Pee series. Funny, curious, and even startling facts and stories about the pee our bodies make.
Wastewater is basically sewage water. Recycled wastewater is already being used today in irrigation for landscaping. That means it’s ok to use recycled urine for landscaping or non-edible gardens. Repurposing wastewater for landscaping, however, is still shy of drinking water. Plants, after all, do like fertilizer, and a lot of fertilizer is based on manure. So, plants aren’t as discriminating in their tastes as humans, we know that. But is it safe to drink recycled urine? It can be. Can urine ever be recycled to taste like regular water again? It’s possible, but it takes more resources than any one person is going to be able to do.
You’re thirsty, but what do you do in an environment where there just isn’t any potable water or any water at all? You either ship it in, or you try to reclaim what little water there is. Reclaimed water is water that is treated to remove contaminants and purified to a level needed for reuse. Where else is there less water than outer space? It takes clouds, hydrogen, oxygen… atmosphere to produce rain water, so what do the astronauts do? Space programs have sent water with the astronauts, but that water eventually runs out. There’s air in the space station, but not quite the right environment to create self-sustaining rain clouds within the confined environment. This either creates time constraints on the amount of time that can be spent in space, or great costs are incurred to continually send large quantities of water to the space stations.
As of November 2008, NASA started using a new water recycling system to purify urine, as well as other wastewater, to create new drinking water for the space station crew. Well, at least they WERE using it, but it kept breaking down. So, how did the recycled urine taste? Apparently, even with blind taste tests, the astronauts could not tell the difference between the purified urine and other water. They say there’s a very faint taste of iodine, but that’s it. They’re hoping to recover 92% of the water from the crew’s urine as well as from the moisture in the air on the space station. So, is urine healthy? No problem when it’s recycled pee. Now, if they can just get the $154 million urine purification machine to keep from breaking down.