Branding The Unthinkable Drinkable

If we’re forced to drink water made from human waste, how will we sell it?

Our planet has as much water today as it did at the dawn of time. No more, no less. It’s just a lot dirtier. For a billion people worldwide a sip of clean water is often beyond reach. It’s a very bad situation that fortunately has a lot of important people doing something about it.

Matt Damon is putting his celebrity behind Water.org with it’s global initiative. Blue Planet Run's model has followers running for the cause. Charity Water is funneling donations to the Third World to address the crisis. The Gates Foundation has offered a million-dollar prize and challenged designers to rethink the toilet. A goal from this initiative is the additional benefit of converting raw human waste to drinking water. Yes, you read that correctly.

A segment on NPR entitled "Why Cleaned Wastewater Stays Dirty in Our Minds" caught my attention. The broadcast revealed the simple fact that we are already drinking wastewater. "We are all downstream from someone else’s poo but the idea of this is unthinkable," says psychologist Carol Nemeroff. " It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water even when the real sewage is gone."

I wondered what would I do if some mega bottler asked me to brand a new "wastewater" product. I made some sketches that offer some possibilities. You can see them above.

Of course, it will take more than branding to convince consumers to take that first sip. But the truth is, as you reach for that bottled water on your desk, it’s already been through someone’s "system." I think I’ll stick with vodkaka.

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  • tj

    Yeh, it's been done in Singapore and branded as NEWater. It's a national programme to increase the number of water sources, and I don't think that there's a stigma attached to that anymore. They did very heavy public awareness programmes, including giving out NEWater at national events and community events. 

  • Terre

    Decades ago, the city of Milwaukee used to dry its processed sewage and resell it as fertilizer. They were having problems with people accepting this concept, until they repackaged it as a product labeled "Mil-Organite." Problem solved...the branding was so effective it eventually became so popular it sold at a premium!

  • Scott Miller

    A friend of mine composts his own poop, then uses it to enrich the soil where he grows his veggies....  awesome!

    To empower yourself and family to always have healthful water, check out this gravity-fed water purifier, alkalizes too:  


    All the best!  Ahoy...

  • Alfred Alfie Norris

    Only necessity or deception will make the unthinkable drinkable palatable.  If you knowingly have another choice, you'd take any alternative. Now if someone took the stuff and branded it without explanation...and the branding was so cool that it became a fashionable drink...AND it didn't get exposed for long enough...people would keep drinking it.  Or if the only thing available to keep you alive was this liquid...you'd drink it. Not really helping with the problem-solving, but that's my thought on the matter.

  • nosybear

    Just an aside - you're probably already drinking water recovered from human waste.  Even here in Denver, there is someone upstream of us and that someone probably excretes and that excretia finds its way into our water supply.  Even the bottled water you grab for likely comes from "Source:  PUC" or some other euphemism for the local water company.  Now that I've turned everyone off, particularly coastal cities like Houston or New Orleans, nature takes care of that waste very efficiently.  Unless you're at the glacier, your fresh water is someone's waste water so don't sweat it.