WaterWorld Weekly Newscast, October 16, 2017

Oct. 16, 2017
A transcript of the WaterWorld Weekly Newscast for October 16, 2017.
Study of Swiss wastewater finds gold, silver, other rare metals; Researchers to develop 'smart' stormwater technologies; NJ man completes 3,200-mile 'walk for water'; AWWA: Water utilities, farmers eager to collaborate

The following is a transcript of the WaterWorld Weekly Newscast for October 16, 2017.

Hi, I'm Angela Godwin for WaterWorld magazine, bringing you water and wastewater news headlines for the week of October 16. Coming up...

  • Study of Swiss wastewater finds gold, silver, other rare metals
  • Researchers to develop 'smart' stormwater technologies
  • NJ man completes 3,200-mile 'walk for water'
  • AWWA: Water utilities, farmers eager to collaborate

Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (or Eawag) have released a study on trace elements in Swiss wastewater with some surprising -- and valuable -- conclusions.

They say that about 3 million Swiss francs worth of gold and silver end up in wastewater effluent or sludge every year.

But there's more: the researchers also found a number of rare earth metals like tantalum, gadolinium and others used in a variety of industries.

Now, don't get too excited: the scientists say that, in most cases, recovering the metals would not be worthwhile, either financially or in terms of the volume.

Their main objective was rather to focus on fluxes and mass balances to understand the extent to which treatment plants contribute to total fluxes in receiving waters.

Their study looked at 64 wastewater treatment plants across Switzerland -- and is the first systematic survey of trace elements in wastewater for an industrialized country.

To learn more about their research, visit www.eawag.ch.

Under a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the University of Michigan is leading a project to develop autonomous "smart" technologies designed to lessen the impacts of flooding from aging stormwater systems.

The researchers will investigate how stormwater systems outfitted with autonomous sensors and valves could be reconfigured in real-time to reduce flooding and improve water quality in urban watersheds.

The city of Ann Arbor is serving as an experimental "smart" watershed. Between 10 and 20 sensors per square mile have been placed in its stormwater system.

The sensors measure a number of variables such as water quality and quantity.

Algorithms coded by researchers can control valves based on changing rainwater levels.

The researchers believe that enhancing existing infrastructure with sensors and autonomous technology could help cities manage stormwater to reduce flooding and pollution from runoff.

On October 6, New Jersey native James Leitner arrived in San Francisco, completing his epic journey to raise awareness about clean water issues around the world.

Embarking from Scotch Plains, NJ, on May 17, Leitner backpacked across the United States, toting 10 gallons -- that's 90 pounds -- of water to symbolize how, in many parts of the world, women and children must travel incredible distances to get water.

His route took him through some U.S. cities struggling with their own water issues, including Flint, Michigan.

In addition to raising awareness, Leitner also raised funds for the Philadelphia Serengeti Alliance, a nonprofit working to provide clean, accessible drinking water in the Mara Region of Tanzania.

To learn more about Leitner's amazing journey, visit missioncleanwater.com.

Last week, the American Water Works Association urged Congress to use the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization to help farmers and water utilities work together to protect the nation’s drinking water.

Tracy Mehan, executive director of government affairs for AWWA, said: "Water utilities and farmers are eager to collaborate on projects that protect public health and the environment, reduce the cost of water treatment and help farmers succeed.”

He noted there's an "opportunity through the Farm Bill to encourage partnerships that allow [farmers] to meet their production goals while protecting our nation’s drinking water.”

Specifically, AWWA is advocating that the reauthorized Farm Bill emphasize protecting water to safeguard public health; expand opportunities for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to work with water systems to prioritize activities in each state; and increase benefits for farmers who employ practices that benefit downstream water quality.

The association is also recommending at least 10 percent of conservation program funds be focused on the protection of drinking water.

For WaterWorld magazine, I'm Angela Godwin. Thanks for watching.