Can You Grow Vegetables With Reclaimed Water? 

Seventy percent of our planet is covered in water, but only 3% is fresh water. Water is not unlimited as many might think, and reclaimed water can help us save this invaluable resource for human life.

If you live in Florida or another state that primarily uses reclaimed water, you might wonder how safe it is for a vegetable garden. If it’s not potable for drinking water, can reclaimed water be used in vegetable gardens? 

We’ll expand on this topic throughout our article and will touch on the following points:

  • Is reclaimed water safe for vegetables and plants?
  • Is reclaimed water safe for pets?
  • Is it safe to drink?
  • The best uses for reclaimed water

Keep reading to stay informed about reclaimed water, its safety, and its uses.

Reclaimed water in a garden water tank

Is Reclaimed Water Safe for a Vegetable Garden? 

Reclaimed water is water that has been in the sewer system and filtered at least two times. Most reclaimed water is clear of any waste material but can still contain bacteria and nutrients. It’s not pure water and should never be consumed. 

However, reclaimed water is often used for landscaping and gardens, as it saves drinking water. In warmer climates where clean water is an issue, reclaimed water can be a lifesaving way of watering plants, lawns, and gardens. 

But bear in mind that the bacteria, extra sodium, and other extra nutrients are still in the water and will touch any plant they water. Therefore, it should be avoided if you plan on eating the vegetables raw or unpeeled.

However, eating peeled, cooked, or skinned vegetables is perfectly safe. 

Is Recycled Water Safe for Plants? 

Recycled water is perfectly safe for plants. Some plants benefit from the added nitrogen and sulfate usually present in recycled water. Although there’s no waste left in the water, the bacteria that make compost and manure so effective are still present in the water. 

However, recycled water is not suitable for humans. The bacteria leftover from wastewater should not be consumed, as it can lead to illness in humans.

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It should also not be left on fruits or vegetables that will be eaten because that can enter human bodies. 

Can You Eat Fruit Grown With Reclaimed Water? 

Fruit and vegetables grown with reclaimed water are not inherently dangerous. However, it’s crucial that gardeners and farmers properly wash the fruit and peel it if it’s had any contact with water.

If sprinkler systems or overhead irrigation are used, the fruits or vegetables should always be peeled or cooked. 

Bacteria are small and can stick to the surface of the fruit, even with a good washing. While it’s possible to completely clean a fruit or vegetable (usually with a vinegar soak or similar method), you’ll usually be better off taking the peel off entirely or cooking the fruit to ensure that it’s clean. 

Man installing reclaimed water tank in a garden

Does Recycled Water Affect Plant Growth? 

Recycled water doesn’t affect plant growth at all. While it affects how the plants should be consumed or handled, they will grow to the same standard of health and fruitfulness as plants grown with drinking water. This is because of the recycling system. 

When water is recycled, it goes through at least two filtration processes. The first process involves letting the water sit still so the solid waste can sink to the bottom and eventually be removed.

After that, a filter takes out the rest of the floating particles of waste and excess bacteria. 

Some states or countries require a third filtration process to remove the remaining bacteria and nutrients leftover from waste. However, this isn’t always mandatory, so it might not be the case in your area. 

Reclaimed Water for Irrigation

Several states have successfully used recycled water for non-drinking purposes. Gardening and irrigation are perfect targets because they absorb the extra nutrients and grow well.

The nitrogen and phosphorus levels are higher than in regular water and increase the richness of the soil. 

However, using reclaimed water for irrigation isn’t without complications. Because it was once wastewater, it has an increased level of saline, which can eventually build up and be bad for plants and vegetables.

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However, this is usually not the case unless you overwater. 

How to Use Reclaimed Water for Vegetables

If you live in a place that uses reclaimed water for irrigation, it’s not precluded that you can’t grow vegetables. There are a few ways of working around the reclaimed water or using it for your vegetables.

Here are some tips on growing vegetables with reclaimed water. 

  • Irrigate around the base of the plant if it’s a flowering plant. This way, the water won’t touch the actual vegetables. 
  • Always cook or peel your vegetables, especially root vegetables. 
  • Wash your vegetables, even if you decide to cook them. 
  • Plant any vegetables you intend to eat raw in pots and water them with drinking water. 

Reclaimed water is a great way to decrease energy consumption and increase the amount of water available for drinking.

However, it’s essential to be very careful about what we use it for and avoid using it on anything that will be eaten raw and not cleaned thoroughly.

If you follow these steps, you will likely be able to grow vegetables with no health problems. 

Is Reclaimed Water Safe To Drink? 

Reclaimed water is never safe to drink unless your local utility provider or water authority has announced that the filtering process is at a higher level.

Most reclaimed water isn’t safe to drink and is clearly marked. However, some counties have increased the filtration system so that reclaimed water is drinkable. 

To check whether your water is safe to drink, look up your water provider. Their website should give you clear directions on whether or not you have safe drinking water.

What Happens if You Drink Reclaimed Water?

No serious consequences should arise if you drink reclaimed water as it has been filtered. But the filtering process is not as rigorous as the one used for drinking water and the regulations are not the same.

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Therefore, there’s some risk of illness for humans and pets that shouldn’t be disregarded. 

Reclaimed Water FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about reclaimed water, how to tell what kind of water you have, and gardening with reclaimed water. We hope that they answer your questions! 

What is reclaimed water used for? 

Reclaimed water is usually used to irrigate lawns and gardens, fill ponds, and as a non-potable water source. It saves energy and water, as freshwater is limited, and it’s costly to filter wastewater enough to become drinkable. 

Is reclaimed water safe for dogs? 

Reclaimed water isn’t safe for humans or pets to drink. Although you are not likely to drink out of the sprinkler, your pup might be. It’s essential to keep the extra bacteria and saline out of a dog’s system, as it could lead to illness and indigestion. 

How do I know if I have reclaimed water? 

Reclaimed water is mapped by the government so that citizens can keep track of where they live. You can access the country map here or look up your personal county’s water system on the utility website. 

It’s illegal to switch a county or state over to reclaimed water without first announcing it to the citizens, so if you don’t have reclaimed water now, you’ll know if a change is coming. 

What are the disadvantages of reclaimed water?

Reclaimed water can cause health and environmental issues if the filtering process is not handled correctly. People might be exposed to bacteria or viruses if they drink it by mistake, and the excess of certain nutrients might not be ideal for specific plants. 

How bad is reclaimed water?

Reclaimed isn’t bad. It’s quite useful for non-drinking purposes. It just isn’t fit for human or animal consumption because the filtering process is not as thorough as the one used for potable water.