The Universal Solvent
So the quiet (or, if you're in the industry, not-so-quiet) transformation that is shaping the water industry is the recognition that "water is water."
That's not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. But the point is that only a little bit of chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, and energy separate all different "kinds" of water - surface water, groundwater, snowmelt, drinking water, storm water, and wastewater. The truth of this is slowly remaking the water industry, dissolving centuries-old strategies of separating drinking water from wastewater, and decades-old disciplinary approaches between chemical treatment of drinking water and biological treatment of wastewater. From the "One Water Council" sponsored by the U.S. Water Alliance to drive a movement toward "one water management," to the Alliance's "Value of Water Coalition" to communicate the the importance of water to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of America, there's a recognition that water quality and reliability requires an integrated, holistic approach.
This was on display at Texas Water 2016, the state's annual water conference sponsored by both the Texas chapter of the American Water Works Association (drinking water) and the Water Environment Association of Texas, the Texas chapter of the Water Environment Federation (wastewater). The leadership of both industries and disciplines convene a major gathering every year, and there were a number of presentations addressing the integration of water and wastewater. James Naylor of Alan Plummer Associates presented on the design and operation of a water reclamation plant in Abilene, Texas that augments the water supply in Lake Fort Phantom Hill (called indirect reuse). Staff from the City of Wichita Falls talked through the challenges of direct reuse, including getting water and wastewater plant operators to understand how each others' systems operate. The image above shows how the city directed 7-10 million gallons per day of treated wastewater to the Cypress Water Treatment Plant through 12 miles of HDPE pipeline.
For those interested in exploring this paradigm shift even further, Professor David Sedlak's book Water 4.0 is an excellent resource, highlighting what is driving this transformation. Additionally, the U.S. Water Alliance is hosting its One Water Summit in Atlanta, GA from June 8-10. (The State of Georgia is leading the way on many new water initiatives, with Atlanta having also hosted in the inaugural North American Water Loss Conference in December 2015.)
Jonathan Kleinman is the President of AIQUEOUS, a technology company based in Austin, Texas that helps water utilities to more cost-effectively manage complex, customer-facing programs. To learn more, visit www.aiqueous.com.