Policy has historically concentrated on effluent efficiency, calling for restrictions of discharge to protect the ecosystem. This is crucial and important.
FREMONT, CA: Water has been one of the big issues facing today's world. Millions of people lack access to clean, safe water in developing countries. Extreme weather conditions, such as drought, are producing hazardous situations; meanwhile, a recent study published forecasts that by 2060, more than a billion people worldwide will be living in cities at risk of severe climate change flooding.
Then, in regions such as the Middle East, where water supplies are driven far beyond natural borders, there is rapid population growth and economic development. And trillions of gallons of water are wasted as the decaying piping and distribution system of cities begins to collapse.
Water Reuse: Closing the Distance between Reuse and Treatment
It is important to strive to stimulate increased water reuse adoption, a policy that enables the planet to take advantage of a continuously replenished water supply every day, regardless of drought or climate change. A nearly untapped resource is treated with urban wastewater. In North America, 75 percent (16 trillion gallons of water per day) of wastewater is treated, but less than 4 percent of that water is reused. It is a distance one needs to close.
The overwhelming majority of municipal effluent treated is discharged into a local receiving drain. Technology exists for the storage and treatment of this wastewater to a quality appropriate for other non-potable purposes: agricultural needs, recharge of groundwater, industrial applications. In fact, wastewater can be treated to a drinking standard that is suitable.
Policy has historically concentrated on effluent efficiency, calling for restrictions of discharge to protect the ecosystem. This is crucial and important. However, politics and policy need to catch up with the increasing recognition of water reuse and start structuring guidelines for its implementation. In many corners of the planet, it's beginning to happen. For instance, to promote water reuse, Saudi Araba increased its water tariff. Instead of investing in desalination technologies, which are efficient but costly, the United Arab Emirates is opting for greater conservation and reuse.
But the recuperation of energy goes beyond the reuse of water. It also ensures that other useful by-products from wastewater can be captured. One of them is energy.