Daily Archives: August 17, 2011

Cognitive Sewage

Americans use on average 24 gallons of water each day to flush their toilets—that’s approximately 5.8 billion gallons. Although billions are spent on treating this water to a level that is suitable for drinking less than 10% of recycled water ends up coming out of our taps.  Despite the best efforts of engineers to produce some of the cleanest water on the planet many people are repelled by the thought of drinking water that’s been in our toilets.This reminds of the recent episode when officials decided to empty the Lake Tabor reservoir coz someone took a leak in it.

Carol Nemeroff, a former student of that guru of gross, Paul Rozin, conducted a study of 2,000 people and established that our old friend of magical contagion was the culprit. As she put it, “It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water, even after the real sewage is gone.”

One way to combat contagion beliefs is to pair the thought of recycled water with more natural settings such as imaging it sitting in an underground reservoir. The problem is that Nature can be pretty filthy so you really are better off with the treated sewage.

With so many cities facing a water shortage crisis, it is about time we got over our contamination fears. San Diego is already drinking recycled water because it imports 85% of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, into which upstream communities like Las Vegas discharge wastewater that is later treated for drinking purposes.

Thank you to those that sent me this item which appeared on this week’s National Public Radio website.


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