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Arts and Entertainment

Jon Stewart Mocks California's Aversion To 'Toilet To Tap' Water

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The Daily Show host Jon Stewart addressed the knee-jerk reaction to a potential drought solution that turns sewage into water clean enough to drink.

On last night's episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a segment about California's drought. Specifically, he mentioned a system that involves processing sewage water and turning it into drinking water. The water ends up cleaner than most tap water, but the part where it's called "toilet-to-tap" is making pundits and those interviewed about the process cringe, calling it "gross" and "icky." This included Gayle King, who said it sounded like a pretty good idea but "the graphic in my mind of what I've seen in the toilet is scary."

Obviously, the process isn't just taking sewage water and drinking it. As Stewart pointed out, "there are steps in between. You're not just sticking a drinking straw up somebody's ass."

This reaction is actually referred to as "the yuck factor," the New York Times reports. The yuck factor is how efforts to start reusing water in L.A. and San Diego in the 1990s were squashed.

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Water from numerous sources—showers, toilets, washing machines, dishwaters, etc.—can be turned into drinking water at treatment facilities via three steps, according to the Guardian. First, water is filtered through a series of very small straws that get rid of bacteria. Then, the water undergoes reverse osmosis, which gets rids of chemicals, then it is exposed to UV light with hydrogen peroxide. The former shower and toilet water is now distilled water.

Mike Markus, the general manager of Orange County's wastewater treatment plant in Fountain Valley, told the New York Times that this water is "stripped down to the H, 2 and O." They have a nicer phrase than 'toilet to tap': "showers to flowers."

Orange County's $481 million plant has been in operation since 2008. This water doesn't go straight into the mouths of thirsty Californians, but instead is pumped underground where it becomes a part of the water supply.

Stewart also poked fun at an app where you can report water wasters. A later segment features correspondent Al Madrigal, who lives in L.A., going on a water wasting 'rumspringa' in New York.

[h/t to The Hollywood Reporter]