As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows From Taps

This article from the science section of the New York Times addresses the revolutionary idea of treating wastewater into drinkable water.

During this period of population growth and climate change, usable water is becoming a precious resource. Within 25 years water availability will change drastically unless necessary measures are taken. This article addresses these issues but was it in an informative and objective manner? Did the author of this article present a strong counter argument? What did you think of the kicker and how did this make you as the reader feel? Did the lede grab your attention/ was it effective or too subtle?

Georgia Richardson



6 Responses to “As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows From Taps”

  1. After reading this article, I decided to look up and read other news stories about the water treatment issue in order to compare them. At first, I did not like this articles use of a lede to grab the readers’ attention, but most of the other articles had similar beginnings. An introduction of the facts of the issue and a clear statement of what the controversy was about. I liked the last question in the lede about the public getting over the “yuck factor” of drinking recycled water, which is relatable to a wide audience. Since everyone drinks water, and a lot of it, we should be concerned about this issue, which is what the lede points to in the beginning. I really enjoyed the kicker at the end, stating if toilet water is good enough for dogs to drink, why isn’t it good enough for people. This ending strongly ties in the “yuck factor” question, but asks the reader to question their own standards. Why should we be so picky about the source of our water, if the end result is safe and drinkable? Good food for thought..

    word count:189

    Megan Novak

  2. I found this article to be particularly interesting and I think it addressed some of the key concerns quite well. I think the most effective aspect of the article was how the author connected it to larger issues. The author brought in a lot of expertise knowledge about the limited resources in the US and how it affects agriculture and consumers alike.

    I think this article also plays into a larger trend of “eco-friendly” practices. It is an excellent example of how behavioral changes can have a significant impact on protecting natural resources and I think it did a good job of connecting scientific knowledge with real world problems to make people care.

    It also did an excellent job of bringing up some of the critiques of reusing non-potable water that I hadn’t considered before. I was well aware of the “yuck factor” before reading, but afterwards I realize there were other angles to think about, like the high cost of the treatment. For this reason in particular I found this article to be extremely well written and effective in examining a delicate, but relevant topic.

    Siena Witte

    Word Count: 186

  3. The lede of the article didn’t seem well placed to me. I understand the author trying to quantify the amount of work it takes to treat the waste water, but as the article went on it became clear that the point of the article was to determine if treated wastewater was a safe alternative to ground water. Starting out with a scene like that didn’t get me invested in that topic. The second paragraph was very well done though; it brought in the issue in a relatable manner, that’s what really drew my attention. On the opposite note, I thought that the kicker was well done. It made me think about the issue, while laughing at the same time. It was an excellent note to leave the story off on. Starting the story with that kind of flavor would’ve gotten me more excited to read and get invested!

    Word Count: 148

  4. I really didn’t like the kicker of the article. It really wasn’t a good joke and it made the reader feel like drinking reclaimed water was just as bad as drinking from the toilet. It kind of went against what the

    Overall, however, I felt that the article was successful because it was able to explain the issue well. In reality, reclaimed water is not dangerous or disgusting. It is just the same as any other water.

    In contrast to Jessica, I actually like the lede. One of the purposes of the article is to show that reclaimed water is not different than regular water; the lede accomplished this. The article showed that the issue of the water safety is not what is being discussed; science has shown that the water is, in fact, safe. The article was trying to show the real issue at hand was the psychology of drinking the water. It accomplished this both by the title of the article and by showing the changing poll numbers.

  5. I agree with Austen that the kicker was a bit inappropriate. After all the detail that the author highlighted about how the treatment process is very thorough, comparing it to drinking directly from a toilet leaves the reader with the wrong impression. If I owned any of the plants mentioned, I would be offended by that.

    I’m also not a huge fan of the lede. The first phrase — “Almost hidden in the northern hills” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the the point she makes. It seems odd, acting as a filler. Also, I think its high output (million gal/day) DOES make it a harbinger of revolution.

    I really appreciated, though, the author’s description of Orange County’s purification process near the end of the first page. Coupled with the “toilet to treatment to treatment to treatment to tap” quote, I think this article provides solid information about how/why these treatments work.

    That being said, I think that the author did a great job of keeping the content balanced. Though she seems to promote treated wastewater for drinking overall, her comments about cost and arduous process of gaining public support continually highlight realistic drawbacks.


    -Kristen Kiluk

  6. I thought the author did a good job and describing the disinfection process in a simple manner. The process is quite complex and I was impressed wit the simplicity of the author’s explanation. Still, I found it difficult to grasp exactly how clean the water coming out is. It says “roughly equivalent to distilled water,” but how close is that? I felt the author could have dug deeper, maybe found another product that is socially acceptable and commonly used that undergoes a similar cleaning process. Or a statistic about the amount of particles (whatever is left over in this cleaned water) in the r-used water in comparison to what is found in distilled water.

    The article could have gone in depth about where our fresh water systems are at now. How much do we have left? Why are we losing fresh water? What are the consequences? There are very compelling and scary statistics about the amount of clean freshwater left and I think that would have kept the reader more intrigued with the topic.

    Nicole Braverman

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