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.


Filed under In the News

4 responses to “Cognitive Sewage

  1. It’s probably a safe bet that virtually every naturally occurring water molecule on the planet has been consumed and then shat out by some creature or another in the past three-plus billion years. Sshhh, don’t tell anybody though, or else we’ll have to take to burning hydrogen in order to supply our cities with water. And it has to be primordial hydrogen — any hydrogen obtained via electrolysis has already been infected with poop water by this point.

  2. Rox

    You’ll be telling us next that there is something wrong with the theories behind homoeopathy, James, if I am right in suspecting a little irony here. Perhaps this could be turned to advantage in making cognitive sewage acceptable. The water molecules from California, Oxford, London, may have been intimately in contact with some of the best brains in the world, for example. It is a reincarnation of the water to use it again. If, however, it has been in contact with relatively bad people, it could be looked on as a sort of immunisation against evil (not unlike using cowpox against smallpox). There are lots of theories to be made up along these lines. You could sell people sewage in bottles if you set your mind to it.

  3. I have absolutely ZERO qualms about drinking processed sewage water. I find it quite odd that people do. We should absolutely be recycling more of our water. No question at all.

  4. Wow. And I thought it was common knowledge that the water we drink has probably been drunk several times before…

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