The droughts devastating Texas have led the city of Big Spring to invest $13 million in a treatment plant that will recycle human urine into potable drinking water. Los Angeles is also reporting plans of a $700 million facility to purify wastewater to make up about 5 percent of the total annual water usage for the city. As global warming leads to less fresh water, it's likely we'll see more treated wastewater coming out of the tap. Survival situations have often called for individuals to "recycle" their urine when water was scarce (Discovery Channel's Bear Grylls has done it). And did you know that there are also people who drink their own urine intentionally, for health reasons?
Practiced by many cultures throughout history, drinking urine (urophagia) has been reported to have a number of healthy effects from inducing meditation, treating infection—even the ability to cure cancer. Unlike fecal matter, our urine is generally not at risk for contamination. In fact, it is sterile after secretion and can even have antimicrobial properties, either ingested or topically.
Urine is about 95 percent water, 2.5 percent urea and the remaining is a mixture of minerals, salts, hormones and enzymes. The high water content is worth noting as fresh water is expected to become considerably scarce over the next several decades as the world's population increases and climate change compromises water resources. Already, filtered wastewater is used for a number of industrial functions. And, it's entirely likely that homes of the future could contain urine-filtering and recycling machines that you pee into to make your morning pot of coffee. (You don't see that in sci-fi movies, though!)
Urea actually has many commercial and pharmaceutical uses including topical creams and fertilizers (although those products usually are made with synthetic urea). It is non-toxic when ingested in small amounts and has a purifying effect, able to remove congestion and mucus in the body. It can help relieve constipation, and is believed to be a barometer for the overall health of the body. In theory, by drinking one's own urine, the body is able to see what needs correcting. This is part of the premise in the use of urine in cancer treatment. Some cancer cell antigens are transferred through urine and by drinking urine the body may be able to create antibodies to the cancer cells. Just imagine, the secret to our health may have been inside us all along...
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger