Research by an American university reveals that recycled wastewater performs as well as bottled water in a blind taste test.

Undertaken by a team at the University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside), wastewater – ‘treated using reverse osmosis’ – is commonly put back into groundwater systems via indirect potable reuse, or IDR technology.

“It is important to make recycled water less scary to people who are concerned about it, as it is an important source of water now and in the future,” said Daniel Harmon, a psychology student and the study’s lead author.

With many locations – including California – already experiencing drought conditions, and many more likely to do so as climate change worsens, increasing the use of recycled wastewater will be a key water management solution.

Many might not be keen on it being the water they drink but with perception rather than safety the real hurdle, it is important to win over consumers. And the taste test showed that it is as popular on the palate as bottled water.

“The groundwater-based water was not as well liked as IDR or bottled water. We think that happened because IDR and bottled water go through remarkably similar treatment processes, so they have low levels of the types of tastes people tend to dislike,” explained Mary Gauvain, psychology Professor at UC Riverside.