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Water Recycling
October 13, 2014


Scientist: Dr. Enid Contes
Division: Life Support

Dr. Contes recycles water by using chemical or biological treatments to remove impurities and contaminants in wastewater to turn into clean drinking water.

How is water recycling achieved onboard the International Space Station?

There is an entire closed-loop system onboard the ISS dedicated to water. First, Astronaut wastewater is captured, such as urine, sweat, or even the moisture from their breath. Then impurities and contaminants are filtered out of the water. The final product is potable water that can be used to rehydrate food, bathe, or drink. Repeat. The system sounds disgusting, but recycled water on the ISS is cleaner than what most Earthlings drink.


How is water recycling helping us achieve planetary sustainability on Earth?

Water recycling is helping us achieve planetary sustainability in many ways. We tend to forget that sources of potable water on our planet is limited, less than 2% of the water on our planet is fresh water, including glaciers and polar ice caps. The goal is to substitute recycled water where potable water is unnecessary. For example, we can use recycled water to recharge underground aquifers, irrigate landscapes and crops, and flush toilets. By using recycled water more frequently we can sustain the limited supply of potable water for drinking and cooking.

For more information visit the Bioengineering Branch in the Space Biosciences Division at NASA Ames.


Image Credit: 
NASA/Dominic Hart
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Page Last Updated: October 16th, 2014
Page Editor: Darlene Wiedemann