A New Way of Thinking...Water Resource Recovery

The challenge is not new - across the US and the world, communities continue to face water supply challenges due to increasing demand, drought, depletion and contamination of groundwater, and the dependence on a single source of water.

By Deb LaVelle

The challenge is not new - across the US and the world, communities continue to face water supply challenges due to increasing demand, drought, depletion and contamination of groundwater, and the dependence on a single source of water. What is new is the most forward-thinking believe it is time for a paradigm shift, from treating wastewater for discharge into watersheds, to treating wastewater to use as a renewable resource, through recovery and re-use.

This shift in thinking will supplement our potable water supply through ground water recharge, irrigation of crops and other public land uses as well as supporting our industrial water needs. Many believe that future trends will focus on beneficial uses through resource recovery in the areas of energy, heat and nutrient harvesting. In addition, trends directed toward decentralized wastewater treatment coupled with local or on-site use are becoming more apparent.

Currently, there are no direct federal regulations or legislation addressing water reuse practice in the United States. However, in September 2004, the U.S. EPA updated and published its Guidelines for Water Reuse (www.epa.gov/ord/NRMRL/pubs/625r04108/625r04108.pdf) which was first published in 1992. The 2004 Guidelines examine opportunities for substituting reclaimed water for potable water supplies where potable water quality is not required.

A large number of states have developed and implemented regulations and/or guidelines related to water reuse into their treatment strategy including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Other states, including Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania are developing legislation to require water reuse guidelines and/or regulations.

Today's trends allow companies to focus on customer needs through research and development, providing knowledge for an informed decision and continuing to be sensitive to solutions that represent the lowest cost of ownership in times when economic factors play a significant role. Our greatest opportunities are related to the sustainability of water resources. Among the treatment strategies that need to be in place to achieve this ideal are reducing energy requirements and providing resource recovery such as energy associated with the captured solids and heat stored in water, nutrient recovery and beneficial use to supplement potable water supplies.

Because the need for water is ubiquitous in our way of life, the competition for the quality and supply of water is accelerating the need for water reuse alternatives and the associated technologies that enable those alternatives. Monitoring and control of various treatment steps is another opportunity and will be essential for gaining public confidence as we develop sustainable measures that will allow beneficial use of wastewater resources.

One of the greatest challenges we face as a water supplier and a user is putting water into the context of its proper value. We must keep in mind that the amount of water in the world is fixed of which only 2% is available as fresh water. Unfortunately, it is not equally distributed and therefore we have to protect, manage, and renew all available water resources.

In an effort to address this challenge it is essential to provide public education to users and promote stewardship to suppliers of treated water. At the heart of this work is the development of standards and a certification program. It is essential to create programs that recognize and reward water users and managers who take major steps to minimize the impacts of their water use and management.

Regional initiatives and stakeholders are critical to the development of a meaningful stewardship program. Many communities have implemented proactive approaches, but there is much more work to be done. It is imperative that we adopt a "treat and recover" approach rather than "treat and discharge" to maintain a sustainable future for water resources.

It's everyone's responsibility to make the shift to Water Resource Recovery. Are you doing your part? WW


About the author: Deb LaVelle is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Aqua-Aerobic Systems, a designer and manufacturer of wastewater treatment equipment and systems for both municipal and industrial markets, worldwide, based in Loves Park, IL. She currently serves as Vice Chairman of WWEMA.

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