One small sip for man, one giant gulp for man kind... a gulp of recycled urine.
We've become increasingly aware lately of how valuable and how scarce potable water is in some parts of the world, but no where is it more scarce than 200 miles up at the International Space Station. Up there you can't take any resource for granted, and a resource as valuable as water can't be pissed away. That is why NASA has installed a urine recycling system. Yesterday astronauts aboard the space station put the system to use for the first time, and with a toast and a smile they downed their first glasses of recycled urine produced by the system.
The system collects the astronauts' urine and boils it off. Once the vapor is collected the waste that it left is jettisoned and the vapor reconstituted. It then goes through a series of filters and is combined with more water collected from cabin vapor. The resulting water is quite clean and according to the astronauts, quite refreshing. I know the idea of drinking pee is a little gross but most of us do it everyday. Lots of our earthbound drinking water comes from waste water treatment plants, which on a much larger and longer scale are pee recyclers. The system in the space station is just a little more compact and a little more personal.
I don't expect we'll be drinking our own pee recycled in our basement anytime soon, but the success of this small scale system could potentially be deployed here on earth in emergency relief situation.
Fore more information on water conservation here on earth check out Blue Living Idea's free ebook: The Green Living Guide™ to Home Water Conservation