Water Industry News

Water Recycling & Why It’s Becoming Increasingly Important

Tackling the water crisis will involve a wide range of different strategies and approaches, with each nation around the world finding the best solutions to suit their specific set of water-related issues… but one such solution that can very much be universally applied is the concept of water recycling.


Also known as water reuse or water reclamation, the practice involves reclaiming water from various sources so it can be reused for purposes such as industry, agriculture, irrigation, groundwater replenishment, potable supplies, toilet flushing in homes and businesses, and emergency aid such as firefighting and street cleaning.


Sources of water suitable for reuse include the likes of municipal wastewater, agricultural runoff, stormwater, grey water, and process and cooling water, all of which can be treated as necessary to meet the requirements for the next intended use.


Climate change


Water scarcity is one of the most pressing concerns of the global water crisis and water shortages have been seen in some parts of the world for some time now.


As the population continues to grow and as the realities of climate change continue to bite, water stress and scarcity will only become more urgent – and water recycling will only become more important as a measure of mitigation.


While reducing the amount of water that we consume is an absolute must, reusing what we have will also make a significant difference to the pressure being put on freshwater resources, particularly in places experiencing water scarcity.


As global temperatures rise over the coming decades, more frequent extreme weather events like flooding and drought will be seen.


During dry periods, traditional water supplies simply start to disappear, which puts local communities and economies at serious risk. When intense rainfall is seen, flooding can take place, increasing the risk of pollution and affecting water quality as a result.


Water recycling can be used to help reduce the demand we place on nature, providing additional water sources for use as required, as well as helping to prevent pollution of natural waterways, protecting ecosystems and biodiversity for future generations.


The future of water recycling


While water reuse is currently only generally considered as a way to reduce pressure on water resources, work is now underway to find out just how far the practice could be taken and what wide-ranging implications it could have for society at large.


Tech magazine Wired has just published an interesting article on this very topic, showcasing the work being done by a company called Epic Cleantec, which intercepts the grey water of a 40-storey apartment blog in San Francisco to be used in toilets and urinals.


This grey water – which has been used but doesn’t contain food scraps or human waste – is filtered through a series of tanks and pipes, and disinfected with chlorine and UV light to ensure it’s safe for reuse… but it seems that there are many other potential applications for this source of water.


Co-founder of the firm Aaron Tartakovsky explained that they’re currently hindered by regulations at the moment and water is only being reused for non-potable applications, but they have the science to turn it into drinking water quality – and they’ve even successfully brewed a beer using the water taken from this particular building!


He said: “We’re turning wastewater – which, in my opinion, is a term that is in dire need of a rebrand – into clean water, into renewable energy and into soil.”


This is where water recycling takes a more innovative turn, with Epic Cleantec using heat exchangers to extract energy from the building’s wastewater and using this energy to heat the water going back into the site, helping to drive down energy bills.


Furthermore, a system is also in development that will process residential black water (which includes food organics and human waste) into a soil amendment.


Much of this is ultimately what more traditional water recycling plants already do, but what makes this particularly exciting is that the system has been shrunk down so that it can fit in the basement of a building – something that will become increasingly important in the future, as more and more people move to urban centres.


As cities grow and expand, so too will their demand for water and unless changes are pushed through, it’s likely that typical wastewater treatment practices will continue, putting the environment at increasing risk.


Spotlight on: San Diego


One city paving the way for others is San Diego, which has been recycling its water since 1981, according to the news source.


The plan is to take this one step further and make use of advanced purification techniques to turn its wastewater into drinking water, using ozone to kill viruses and bacteria before passing the water through filters and ultrafine membranes to deliver this.


Phase one of the city’s sewage recycling system is now almost half built, with the aim being to produce 30 million gallons of potable drinking water per day and supply half of San Diego with this water source by the year 2035.


Juan Guerreiro – the city’s director of public utilities – was quoted by Wired as saying: “What’s really wild is we’ve had visitors from other agencies and areas that are water rich.


“You wouldn’t think they’d want to push towards these projects, but what they’re realising is that recycling the water that we already have contained within our wastewater systems, from an environmental stewardship perspective, is really beneficial.”


What can businesses do?


The good news is that water recycling is for everyone and this technology can be harnessed by businesses and individuals alike to reduce reliance on mains water supplies.


Investing in water recycling strategies for your business can help you save up to 50 per cent on water costs, so it’s certainly worth investigating from a financial perspective alone. If you’d like to find out more about how to reduce water usage and consumption, get in touch with the Switch Water Supplier team today.