WaterWorld Weekly Newscast, April 2, 2018

April 2, 2018
A transcript of the WaterWorld Weekly Newscast for April 2, 2018.
Good news for water funding in FY18 appropriations bill; Portable reactor turns waste to energy; Sewage sludge leads to biofuels breakthrough; Uptick in water industry acquisitions -- with special guest LaMarr Barnes, U.S. Water

The following is a transcript of the WaterWorld Weekly Newscast for April 2, 2018.

Hi, I'm Angela Godwin for WaterWorld magazine, bringing you water and wastewater news headlines for the week of April 2. Coming up...

Good news for water funding in FY18 appropriations bill
Portable reactor turns waste to energy
Sewage sludge leads to biofuels breakthrough
Uptick in water industry acquisitions -- with special guest LaMarr Barnes, U.S. Water

President Trump recently signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill into law that will keep the federal government funded through September 30, 2018.

Some encouraging figures for water and wastewater.

Funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act -- or WIFIA -- program was more than doubled, getting $63 million with which to make loans. That's up from $30 million in FY17.

The Drinking Water and Clean Water SRF programs each received an increase of $300 million, bringing their funding to $1.16 billion and $1.69 billion, respectively.

The Title XVI water recycling program got a healthy boost of $20 million for a total of $54.4 million.

The bill also included $560 million for USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, as well as an additional $500 million for direct rural water and waste disposal loans and grants to remain available until expended.

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are developing a portable machine that can turn waste products -- like discarded food, agricultural refuse or wastewater from a microbrewery -- into valuable methane gas for energy generation.

The Gas Cube is a semi-trailer-sized reactor that its developers compare to a "two-stomached cow": incoming debris is macerated (much like a cow would chew its food) and deposited in the first chamber (or stomach) where microorganisms break it down and ferment it.

In the second chamber, special microbes turn volatile fatty acids into methane, which can be piped out to run generators or other equipment.

The project is being funded by a grant from the U.S. Air Force and, once scaled up, the prototype is intended to save waste handling and fuel costs at remote bases.

But if the prototype is successful, the researchers believe it could have wider application such as in disaster areas or refugee camps, or put into use when waste-handling infrastructure is down.

Toluene is a widely used petroleum-based octane booster in gasoline with a global market of 29 million tons per year.

And now, after intense analysis of sewage sludge and lake sediment, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint BioEnergy Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered a new enzyme that will enable the microbial production of a renewable bio-based alternative.

Over the years, scientists have reported on the production of bacterial toluene, but until now, the identity of the enzyme catalyzing the reaction was a mystery.

The scientists aren't sure WHY the bacteria produce toluene -- they suggest that it could be to regulate its internal pH or as a toxin to outcompete other microbes.

But what they DO know is that, for the first time, the enzyme will enable biochemical synthesis of an aromatic fuel hydrocarbon from renewable resources.

In the January issue of WaterWorld, Bluefield Research's Reese Tisdale outlined several key water industry trends to watch in 2018. One of these is increased activity in mergers and acquisitions, such as U.S. Water's acquisition of Tonka Water last fall.

Here to comment is U.S. Water CEO LaMarr Barnes.

LaMarr, thank you for joining us.

[LaMarr Barnes, CEO, U.S. Water]

So, now, there has been a lot of speculation about an increase in acquisitions in the water space. What is it about the market right now that seems to be fueling that?

[LaMarr Barnes, CEO, U.S. Water]

Last fall, U.S. Water acquired Tonka Water. Why Tonka?

[LaMarr Barnes, CEO, U.S. Water]

Excellent! So… What's next for U.S. Water? What can we expect?

[LaMarr Barnes, CEO, U.S. Water]

That's great. LaMarr, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it and we wish you all the best going forward.

[LaMarr Barnes, CEO, U.S. Water]

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