By Samuel Jeyanayagam, PhD, PE, BCEE, Vice President, CH2M HILL
Substantial global population growth and the rapid increase of people living in urban areas are adversely affecting climate change, rate of biodiversity loss, and nutrient cycles, among other planetary boundaries. Efficient resource (water-energy-nutrients) management has become a necessary component of any sustainable decision paradigm that seeks to reverse these trends. While leading-edge technologies are being developed for this purpose, it is necessary for the water industry to introspectively assess successes and failures with a view to prioritizing resources for innovation.
Nutrient recovery has emerged as an attractive option for managing nutrients in wastewater. Since the recovered products have valuable secondary uses, this process can potentially allow plants to generate alternative revenue streams to offset operation and management costs. Although our industry has a general awareness of the benefits of nutrient recovery, a clear path forward to wider implementation is lacking due to the dearth of technical and economic data. The on-going Water Environment Research Foundation study aims to fill the knowledge gap.
Energy contained in wastewater and solids is significantly higher than the energy required for treatment. Hence energy neutrality is an achievable goal and is being successfully pursued by implementing alternatives that include increased energy (methane gas) production and reduced energy consumption by the integration of emerging concepts such as anaerobic ammonia oxidation (ANAMMOX).
Based on the philosophy that all water is good water and there is only one water cycle, the industry approach to water management needs to change to incorporate integrated strategies across the entire water cycle (drinking water/stormwater/used water). This integrated resource management approach recognizes the concept of ‘fit-for-purpose’ use. Singapore has been an early integrator of this concept and can serve as a guide to other cities.
Achieving sustainable and livable cities of the future hinges on the ability to critically evaluate existing conditions and leverage site-specific opportunities to deliver optimal environmental, societal and economic benefits. Learning more about how leading-edge technologies are currently being deployed will be crucial to identifying future directions for accelerating the innovation cycle.
Dr. Jeyanayagam, a nationally-recognized wastewater treatment expert, has over 32 years of consulting and academic experience and has worked on projects in three continents. His areas of expertise include nutrient removal/recovery, biosolids processing, and disinfection. He has been exposed to all facets of a project including master planning, alternative evaluation, process design, start-up assistance, process optimization, and operator training. Additionally, Dr. Jeyanayagam has written and presented over 150 papers and co-authored over 20 Water Environment Federation (WEF) publications. He plays a leadership role in WEF as Chair of the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Design Committee (the largest WEF committee) and as member of the editorial board of the Water Environment Research and Water Environment & Technology journals.
This article has been republished with permission by CH2M Hill. To view the original article, visit CH2M Hill's blog here.