This World Water Day, remember: water is never waste.
Each year, organizations around the world come together under the umbrella of World Water Day to raise awareness and funds for water issues. MWH, now part of Stantec, supports the day in a number of ways, from participation in WaterAid Australia’s Water Challenge, to client events in a number of cities, including London and Washington D.C. in 2017. Through these activities, we hope to spur dialog and strengthen partnerships as we work toward a sustainable water future.
This year, UN-Water’s World Water Day activities focus on wastewater. It’s an important topic, yet wastewater is much more than “waste” – it has proven to be a valuable resource in the circular economy.
What is the circular economy?
Quite simply, it’s a sensible way of thinking. Rather than a traditional linear model (make, use, dispose), the circular economy looks at how we can keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting value along the way.
At MWH, now part of Stantec, we believe wastewater presents three key opportunities:
Read on to learn how some of our people and projects help clients harness wastewater for good.
Dr. Allegra Da Silva, Supervising Engineer (Denver, Colorado, United States)
My story: Smart solutions come from industry collaboration.
Over the past 18 years, I’ve undertaken a number of international efforts, with an emphasis on increasing water reuse around the world. Through my work, I’ve found collaboration is key. It’s not about what company you work for, or who is funding a particular project—it’s about bringing the best and brightest ideas together to create workable solutions for the challenges facing our world. This is why I serve on a number of committees for the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), Water Environment and Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) and WateReuse Colorado (WRCO), among others.
Melanie Holmer, Regional Reuse Leader (Sacramento, California, United States)
My story: Water cycle. Challenge accepted. Solutions provided.
I started my career in drinking water treatment, but have been fortunate to explore a number of areas since. It’s fitting that my career has followed its own water cycle, because water in each of its stages has challenges and opportunities. There’s a finite supply of water on our planet and in a world of limited resources, it’s critical to make the best possible use of each resource in a financially feasible way that is protective of public and environmental health. Water reuse technology is improving quickly and we are working toward improvements all the time.
Dr. Alex Sandu, Industrial Wastewater Treatment Leader (Lima, Peru)
My story: Travel the world to treat wastewater.
Originally hailing from Romania, and having studied in France, Switzerland and the United States, I now spend my days working among the vibrant cultural melange of Latin America. It’s a fascinating personal experience, and a challenging professional and technical one as well, as I help industrial clients navigate the opportunities associated with their own waste products. As Chair of the Water Reuse in Food and Beverage Industries Committee for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), resource recovery ranks high on my list of priorities, and I’m pleased to be able to introduce clients to the concept and create real benefits for their bottom lines as well as our planet.
Mengli Shi, Engineer Intern (Washington, DC, United States)
My story: International development for water, health, environment.
I’m an environmental engineer by training, and I’m passionate about international development. The field is exciting because it demands innovative and unique solutions for differing countries and cultures. I relish the opportunity to apply my technical expertise to help developing countries overcome water and sanitation obstacles. And interestingly, we are seeing developing nations at the forefront of many global sanitation initiatives—in the area of fecal sludge management, for instance. Because some of these locations did not previously have solutions in place, they are able to skip more traditional treatment options and adopt cutting-edge practices from the start.
Dr. Art Umble, Wastewater Practice Leader (Denver, Colorado, United States)
My story: Resource recovery is the way forward.
I have passion for living and contributing to an environmentally sustainable world, and I think our planet has a great future ahead if we help it along the way. For me, wastewater represents an opportunity to recover new resources for beneficial uses. This is an approach I share with my clients, as well as my colleagues – I implement resource recovery whenever sensible, and actively work to share my knowledge and excitement for such opportunities on a daily basis. In fact, I’m involved in a number of Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) committees to increase awareness on this very topic.
Dr. Chiew Wong, Principal Process Engineer (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
My story: A passionate “greenie” from the start.
I studied chemical engineering and specialized in wastewater treatment with the aim to solve environmental pollution problems. Beginning my career in Singapore in the early 2000s put me on the path to reuse work when a major recycled water initiative known as NEWater was launched. I enjoy the fact that we can add value to the world by creating transformational change using materials that others simply consider unwanted “waste”. Using this approach, our firm’s work in Googong, Australia has enabled the creation an entire new town that would not otherwise be possible.
Dr. Chengyan Zhang, Consultant (Washington, DC, United States)
My story: Sludge is the new black gold!
As a part of our international development team, I work toward supporting development that is sustainable and responsible. So while each solution we undertake is focused on technical excellence, it’s also important that it be focused on building capacity and engaging stakeholders. Our client’s waste-to-energy work in developing nations is a great example because we don’t just deal with a waste product, we create a renewable fuel and economic resource to offer communities a sustainable market-based solution.
Water reuse drought-proofs a new, land-locked town
Googong, New South Wales, Australia
The Millennium Drought posed severe water shortages across Australia and threatened the livelihood of a number of cities. At the same time, planning was underway for a new 6,000-home township near the Australian capital of Canberra. Seawater desalination was not an option due to the nearly 300 kilometers separating the town from the ocean, and the developers had to think outside the box for a sustainable solution. They hired MWH, now part of Stantec, in 2003 with a simple brief: find an integrated water cycle solution that uses as little potable water as possible. In a decade-long journey, we helped our client rezone the land and delivered a full range of assets including a state-of-the-art water recycling plant. Today, Googong is thriving with a continuously growing population. Even better, the town users only 40 to 45 percent of the potable water typically consumed in other Australian townships.
Metro on path to be the “utility of the future”
Denver, Colorado, United States
The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District of Denver (Metro) has embarked on a 15-year journey to a sustainable future for its 210-MGD water reclamation facility which serves 1.8 million people. In doing so—and in the face of new regulatory initiatives that impose lower effluent nitrogen and phosphorous for discharge to the South Platte River—Metro has embraced innovative technology. The first steps on this journey included implementing Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR). Metro had historically experienced maintenance problems associated with the struvite deposits that resulted from phosphorus release, and identified this would increase under EBPR. Having previously addressed the maintenance issues through chemicals, Metro selected phosphorus recovery as a new solution; rather than increase costs, they will now create a revenue stream via sale of struvite product to the fertilizer industry.
Program maximizes limited local water resources
San Diego, California, United States
In response to rising water costs, growing populations, and continuing drought, the City of San Diego—which imports 85 percent of its water from the Colorado River and Northern California—is moving forward with a 20-year water reuse program. Our team provided technical support and QA/QC review, as well as membrane filtration and ultraviolet (UV) selection/procurement support, for the 30 percent design report for a solution that will produce approximately 30 MGD of purified water to Miramar Reservoir for ultimate treatment at Miramar Water Treatment Plant. Treatment processes will include ozonation, biologically activate carbon filtration, membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, UV advanced oxidation, and post-stabilization.
Sludge becomes revenue stream in Rwanda
Rwanda faces a rapidly growing population that is placing urban areas under stress with improper sanitation measures. The Pivot project is a waste-to-energy enterprise which aims to redefine urban sanitation through an environmentally friendly fecal sludge management (FSM) approach. MWH, now part of Stantec, helped Pivot conduct a cost analysis of this approach as compared to conventional treatment systems, and found that it was competitive. While currently operating in pilot capacity, we have also worked to identify suitable effluent treatment technologies for the full-scale plant to come. Through this innovation, Pivot will tap into the sustainable biomass fuel market and looks to expand their reach to Uganda and India in the near future.