Where Does Wastewater Go?

(Originally posted to ihatemyself.com June 2009)

So you want to know where wastewater goes after you're done using it! Good choice! These days wastewater consumption is a mysterious issue, and as a water-drinking person it's your job to know where the water goes, what it does, what its whole deal is, and finally what all of this means for you in the long run. With that out of the way, let's get started on our magical journey through the water cycle- or as we like to call it, the aquatic version of Kafka's Metamorphosis.

The first stop on our journey through the desolate and unknown reaches of public utilities is, of course, the notoriously underwhelming city of Tulsa, where all things theoretically begin. In Tulsa, 450,000 gallons of wastewater are pumped out by the minute. If you were standing next to a hypothetical river that contained all the wastewater in Tulsa, you would be looking at lots of clogs, lots of Mister Plumber, golf balls that got lost in the streams on mini-golf courses, and of course an infinite supply of sewage.

Before we move onto the next stop, here's a fun thought experiment: do you need to urinate or defecate? Sure you do, we all do. As living organisms, we're driven by a constant and insatiable desire to consume and excrete in an endless loop until we die. Without this process, there would be no wastewater, no landfills, no pollution. Remember the grueling 9-to-5 shift of the average water treatment plant worker the next time you decide to chug down a Big Gulp at your local 7-11. For every Big Gulp you guzzle down, he has to sift through your urine and pull out the kidney stones. For a Double Gulp, that could be twice as many kidney stones. If you have a kidney infection, he'll have to filter out all the blood, too. Imagine that.

Our next stop on the rainbow road of legislation and dead fish is the Keystone Pipeline, the metaphorical continuation of the hypothetical Tulsa river from earlier. Keep in mind that aquatic specialists and health experts think of things in abstract terms. The Keystone Pipeline, which only benefits the Amercian economy despite disrupting Canadian ecology, filters out valuable materials from the Wastewater and delivers them directly to the famed golden hoard of Goldman Sachs. These valuable materials include Dilbit, a derivative of Dilbert, and Microplastics, which are used in popular consumer electronics, such as the Game Boy 2.0, now with twice the capacity and four times the resolution. The Game Boy 2.0 is truly next-level technology.

Connecting the Keystone Pipeline to the Crematory is the Keystone Pipeline Junior, a proposed offspring of the Keystone Pipeline and the Exxon Valdez. While breeding is currently in its early phases, the Keystone Pipeline Junior could be a more appealing variety for the general public, with youthful charm and exuberant naivete.

If you were a small microplastic riding the ferocious and unpredictable waves of the Keystone Pipeline, you would be surrounded by a nihilistic emptiness the likes of which no living organism has ever known. You would be nameless, faceless, a cog in a machine. You would be swept effortlessly through dark corridors entirely against your will, sucked and pushed around a labyrinth of confusing facilities until you ended up in the fuel tank of an Edsel. To counteract this soul-crushing monotony, the Keystone Pipeline regularly plays soft Muzak through loudspeakers overhead, to reassure the microplastics and dilbits that while they might soon be burned in a combustion engine to produce momentum, they can at least enjoy Barry Manilow's top 10 hits on repeat.

How does the Crematory factor into this equation? Nobody really knows for sure. The last time the EPA issued them a subpoena they cremated it.

If you thought this process was finished, you would be a clueless idiot, because the fun just keeps on coming. Bohemian Grove, a facility with lavish parties and an inexperienced workforce as featured in the film "Fast Times At Bohemian Grove," produces at least 10,000 gallons of urine and cheap soap annually, providing an essential part of our wastewater equation.

The official flag of Bohemian Grove, displayed proudly atop Bohemian Grove's roof, is nearly identical to the American flag in every way save one. There are no stars on it, representing Bohemian Grove's mission statement: to disband all 50 states and turn them into a cost-effective Walmart. The urine and cheap soap leaves Bohemian Grove through the School-To-Prison Pipeline. While passing through the schools and prisons, the school-to-prison pipeline is filled with more useful components of the wastewater formula- cigarettes, saliva, expired milk, used condoms, and of course the secret sauce. Without these, the wastewater would be classified as wantwater.

Upon completion of this route, the wastewater exits the School-To-Prison Pipeline and enters the Keystone Pipeline. From here, the water is disbanded and strip-searched, and promptly sent to the water treatment plant. From here, the number and length of pipes is limited and the esoteric structures in which the water remains for hours on end are numerous. A water treatment plant is the DMV of the water cycle.

Once the water has been reminded of its place in the grand scheme of things and assigned a caste, it passes through an elaborate filter of Uncoiled DNA, which is easier for liquids to pass through due to its uncoiled shape and flat disposition. The Uncoiled DNA is 100% organic, though for legal reasons we can't mention what living organism it's harvested from. To imagine what the process of DNA filtration looks like, imagine a water slide blockaded by a ladder halfway down. Now imagine that Rock Hudson is standing at the top of the water slide hurling Nintendo consoles down the water slide. If it weren't for the ladders, which allow the water to pass through but not the Nintendo consoles, the Nintendo consoles could hit someone in the wave pool on the head, in which case the water park could get sued. Luckily, the ladders prevent this. Hopefully this visual aide helps you imagine how useful uncoiled DNA can be in our water processes.

The Uncoiled DNA can become gunked up every so often, in which case one of our laboratory technicians comes through and ungunks it with a toothpick. If you want a good idea of how this process looks, watch one of the Slim Jim commercials where a man in a Slim Jim costume wreaks havoc on the digestive system. If you watched our ungunking process up close, havoc would be wreaked on your digestive system.

At this point the water is 90% free of debris and filth, though it can still smell yucchy. To counteract this putrid stench, the water goes through a protective Odor Shield. The Odor Shield uses the same techniques as consumer grade anti-persperant, though it contains no anti-persperant. If you're wondering how that works, imagine a hammer and then hit yourself in the head with the imaginary hammer, because you're clearly not paying enough attention. If you didn't want to learn, you shouldn't have clicked here.

The Odor Shield was infamously protested by obscure R&B duo Auto and Cherokee, who stood outside the water treatment facility for hours on end and chanted slogans such as "Down With The Odor Shield!" and "The Odor Shield Perpetuates Gender Stereotypes!" You may have heard some bad things about the Odor Shield in your newspapers, on your TV screens, and on the grapevine. Don't worry, the Odor Shield is absolutely safe. For proof that it's safe, consider this: if it wasn't safe, we probably wouldn't use it. There you go, definitive proof that nothing is wrong with the Odor Shield. For further information on the Odor Shield, you can visit your local water treatment plant for a guided tour where they'll show you everything except the Odor Shield.

Once the wastewater has spent at least 24 hours in the Odor Shield it becomes gray water and enters its My Chemical Romance phase. You probably know gray water as the water that fills the toilet tank when you flush it- but did you also know that gray water has made numerous appearances on daytime talk shows such as Ellen and The Doctors?

Randy's Donut is the next stop for the gray water, it's located beneath the Odor Shield and the gray water falls into it whether it wants to or not. I know exactly what you're thinking. Isn't there a restaurant called Randy's Donut in Tulsa? That's right, things have really come full circle. Just like a donut! Ha ha! In 1956 at the University of Tulsa the mechanism we now call Randy's Donut was discovered by Raymond Simmons III. Fun fact: rumor at the time states that he was a closeted Homosexual. Thanks, Raymond, for your discovery. Without it, who knows what little nasties could be swimming around in our taps.

The donut is constructed so that all the gray in the gray water settles onto the edge and all the pure watery goodness collectivizes in the center. Randy's Donut works a lot like your grandmother's washing machine in that it's too big, it doesn't operate at peak efficiency, and it's been siphoning obscene amounts of energy since 1982.

On the exterior of Randy's Donut well-known mathematician William Thurston's Wet Dream can be located. Nobody knows how or why it got there, though some in the water treatment community believe it's due to the geometric perfection of the donut and the manner in which its smooth curves ebb off into the distance while it spins. This hypothesis was strengthened in 2001 when a group of mathematicians visited the Des Moines plant and went comatose. Since then, signs have been placed at 360 degree angles around Randy's Donut to ward off the numerically or geometrically inclined.

Don't go anywhere, because if you don't read the rest of this you won't know what happens to your water, and nobody wouldn't want to know what happens to their water. The next orders of business on the Highway to Hell are the Parazobnal Trapahezroids. These durable structures are built by the Military-Industrial complex through an unprecedented joint venture between the Military and the Industry. They hold lots of gallons each and they're filled with small teams of oceanic researchers who use the Trapahezroids as miniature simulations of early Cambrian ecosystems.

The offices surrounding the Trapahezroids are full of people who would rather be doing something else- learning to conquer Badminton, sipping a mojito in the shade, even filling out 1040 forms. We don't know why these people are in such a sour mood. Perhaps it's because the Trapahezroids, unlike the other structures, make a depressing noise as their contents slosh around. In addition, the Trapahezroid chamber has bad lighting. These annoying working conditions have been the basis for many water treatment inside jokes, during which the workers whose offices are sitauted on the border of the Trapahezroids are described as pathetic and weak.

The water is given a rough time of it in this stage. While before the water may have retained even a slight hint of optimism concerning its future, here the water is reduced to an empty husk of its former self, barely possessing the strength or will to continue. The water at the end of the process is not the same water it was before the process.

Unlike Randy's Donut, nobody knows where Shane Dawson's Haircut got its name, and nobody really wants to know. Like the Waldviertel Pyramid, Shane Dawson's Haircut remains a cryptic enigma, and perhaps it's best left that way. What we do know is that it's roughly the same shape and size as the donut, with a less appealing structure and more pituitary glands. Its behavior is yet to be determined.

Shane Dawson's Haircut is interesting because only half the water in the plant is filtered through it. Water that isn't filtered through Shane Dawson's Haircut is used in alcoholic beverages at many bars during a period known as "Happy Hour." Water that goes through Shane Dawson's haircut will be utilized in beverages during cheap mockeries of "Happy Hour" at family-friendly establishments such as Chili's Or Applebee's. These callous farces, which consist mainly of non-alcoholic juice drinks or carbonated sodas, are usually called something similar to "Thirsty Hour" or "Drink Time" to distinguish themselves from their authentic alcoholic counterpart. Don't be fooled. Know your enemy.

You might notice that unlike the Donut, which has a small thick black thingy on the outside edge, Shane Dawson's Haircut instead has a thin line through its middle. Both have a stick in the center. This does not affect the functionality of either apparatus. It's just an interesting externality.

At this point the water will ask to be excused.

Of all the equipment used to make your water safe, the Temporal Paradox is the most beloved. You may have heard that your tap water contains a small amount of dinosaur urine, or could potentially contain a small amount of dinosaur urine, or a similar factoid along those lines. This tidbit was conceived in 1998 by the National Water Board. At the time, water was being outmarketed and outsold by Surge Cola, which was bodaciously rad and had a mean streak of attitude. To counteract this, the Water Board determined that they should appeal to the youth by adding non-lethal doses of dinosaur urine to the filtration process. This was difficult, as dinosaurs were long dead.

Fortunately, Raymond Simmons III's grandson, Raymond Simmons V, stepped up to the plate and created the Temporal Paradox, which is now a necessity and a mainstay in every filtration facility worth its salt. With the press of a button, a team of logistics experts can be transported back to dinosaur times, where they overdose dinosaurs on lethal servings of Surge Cola and collect the copious amounts of posthumous urine that result.

The mesmerizing pattern on the left represents the dangerous and exhilarating journey of the logistics experts in a long-forgotten period when mammals were but a puny and helpless class of creature and the lizard kings ruled all, while the bland and monotone box on the right represents the vat where the dinosaur urine is added to the water. Don't worry, most of it is Surge Cola so the probability of it containing any deadly prehistoric strain is slim. The ratio of dinosaur urine to water is roughly 3 parts dinosaur urine for every 3 million parts water. For this reason, and for several other reasons, the practice of adding dinosaur urine to water has often been termed paleohomeopathy.

And that's about it! The water gets shoved into a gargantuan whirlpool off the coast of Norway, the Maelstrom, and lands in the River Styx, at which point it's as fresh and clean as a rump. This frothing abomination ensures that the water is thoroughly aerated and mixed. Our process in its entirety is similar to the process that occurs naturally without human intervention, although this process contains human intervention. Once the water arrives at your tap, or the tap of your local 7/11, it's time to drink water or drink a Big Gulp. No matter what choice you make, your bladder will be begging you for release in about 2 hours, at which point the whole process starts over again. Pretty cool, huh?

Despite the apparent simplicity of the water filtration process, you might be wondering what we do with all the debris we filter out of the water- and that's where our patented interactive experience, You Can't Hide From Yourself Forever, comes in. Much like a drunkard's intervention, You Can't Hide From Yourself Forever is a morbid shrine composed of 4 small funeral candles arranged side-by-side. Once the debris sees the grotesque reminder of authenticity, it is determined to do its best in helping humanity out.

Some bleeding-heart organizations have denounced the practice, stating that while water can be ethically traumatized, debris is a higher living organism and our interactive shrine could do irreparable damage to its mental health. To this argument, we make the claim that if debris wasn't reminded of its inferiority, it might rebel and begin unleashing its awesome wrath upon civilization. And given the horrors that our technicians have witnessed in the pools over the years, seeping and spreading, it's a wonder the debris hasn't overtaken us already. In many ways, You Can't Hide From Yourself Forever is a necessary evil, like a Scared Straight program- it reminds the debris of its nature and reinforces the idea of compliance and servitude.

After the conveyor belt passes the testament to man's reign, the debris is loaded off the belt and heaped in large scoops into a cold and sterile prison bucket, where it spends the night and thinks its decisions over.

In 2005 we partnered with Duracell batteries to create Duracell: The Next Generation. Despite the name, this is not a battery available for home use. Rather, it's a battery powered apparatus located near the back door of every water treatment plant. The debris is loaded into a battery-shaped barrel where it's crushed into fine little bits. The apparatus requires 5,000 Double A batteries to run, but due to Duracell's famous long-lasting power we only need to stock the apparatus up with new batteries every day or so. While nobody ever sees this apparatus up close during guided tours, Duracell has assured us that it's great for PR and brand recognition.

Once the debris is transformed into a thin and tasteless chalk, it's casually arranged in the back of a Taco Hut Truck. The Taco Hut Trucks supply every location nationwide, so the next time you're eating a delicious Guacamolo Chalpa, and you spill a little bit of salsa on your automotive bib, remember that the ground beef in that Chalpa is at least 70% debris from a water treatment facility. Talk about environmental sustainability!

The final element in the Treatment process that we feel is worth mentioning is Steve Aoki's Investment Pool, which functions as the power source for the entire plant except for the aforementioned Duracell: The Next Generation machinery. Steve Aoki's Investment Pool comes fully equipped with an endless amount of money with which we estimate we'll be able to process water for at least another century before we run out of funds. Steve has been very generous with his assets and as such he was awarded the "Water Hero" badge at the annual Wet n' Wild Water Harvester's Conference in 2003.

And there you have it, pretty much everything you'll ever need to know about how you get the water you drink. There's a lot involved every time you turn on the faucet, from infrastructure to employment to innovation, so you'd better thank the water gods. If anything you read here today worried you, don't worry. Nobody likes a worry wart, and you probably don't have any idea what you're talking about. The next time you attend a Skrillex bash, be sure to bring up these fascinating realities. Few people today know the lost art of watermaking, and that's a shame considering everyone drinks water, even the vegans. In a world of division and social hierarchy, remember that everyone drinks water, so reach across the aisle with water and use water as leverage when bribing Senators. Water is life giving water. Boy, all this talk about water has made me thirsty. Ha ha!

(c)2009 Darryl And The Troglodytes