Jonathan Turley has an interesting story of someone who was caught urinating into an open reservoir that served as the source for a city’s drinking water supply. While authorities are looking into whether the man should be prosecuted, the more interesting fact is that the city decided to dump all the stored water, nearly 8 million gallons of it, as a result.
This is one of those situations where people’s perceptions of how bad something is trumps any rational thinking, similar to how the fear of being harmed by a terrorist attack makes people willing to give up major rights and become subservient to the government, when that threat is tiny compared to (say) dying in an automobile accident.
Almost all of urine is water so roughly 10 ounces of urine in 8 million gallons would have untraceable amounts of non-water body waste. In addition, an open reservoir would be getting numerous sources of pollution from other animals and vegetation. I once visited the Cleveland water purification plant and was given a tour by one of my former students. Cleveland has the reputation of providing high quality water to its residents and I believe it and drink it straight from the tap without any further filtering. But when you visit the plant, you quickly realize that what we drink is hardly 100% pure,
And yet many of us seem to have this romantic notion of the perfect water cycle in which the impure water in the ground separates itself from the impurities by evaporating into the atmosphere, coming down as pure rain, and then out of our faucets. Most of us shut our eyes to the fact that our drinking water is not perfectly pure H2O and indeed should not be because the impurities also provide us with some of the minerals we need. But the thought of a tiny amount of urine in water is so icky, and people are so repulsed by it, that when the fact cannot be hidden, the people in the above city took the extraordinary step of wasting so much water.