2020 Engineering Excellence Award

2020 Engineering Excellence Award – Bronze Winner

Tata & Howard, Inc. is pleased announce the Shrewsbury, MA Home Farm Water Treatment Plant as a Bronze winner for the 2020 American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts’ (ACEC/MA) 2020 Engineering Excellence Award.

Tata & Howard evaluated various treatment options for design and construction of a water treatment facility based on loading rates, removal efficiencies, and estimated costs for removal of manganese. Manganese levels of the Home Farm Wells in Shrewsbury, MA had exceeded MassDEP’s Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) of 0.05 mg/L and the Office of Research and Standards Guidelines (ORSG) Lifetime Health Advisory limit of 0.3 mg/l. Based on the result of pilot testing, Tata & Howard, Inc. recommended biological pressure filtration for removal of iron and manganese.

Tata & Howard, Inc. provided lead engineering services for the design, permitting, funding assistance, bidding, award, construction administration, and resident project representation of a new 7.0 million gallons per day (mgd) Home Farm Water Treatment Plant to replace the existing treatment facility, which did not have processes to remove manganese.

The Water Treatment Plant focuses around biological pressure filtration processes for manganese removal using naturally occurring groundwater microorganisms with minimal chemical addition. Biological pressure filtration offers higher loading rates than conventional catalytic media for iron and manganese removal.

The Home Farm Water Treatment Plant is the largest biological pressure filtration facility in the northeast United States. The Home Farm Water Treatment Plant cost $14,900,000 inclusive of engineering and contingencies, of which approximately $1.2 million was for the biological filters.

Winning ACEC Engineering Excellence Award projects exemplify ingenuity and professionalism and represent the breadth of engineering’s contributions to our everyday lives. Projects display outstanding examples of how engineers connect communities, provide safe and reliable water and energy, and make buildings safe and efficient.

Gicumbi: DEFAST and D’Furious

James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.


Day 4

Today is the last day of the tour and we spent the day in the Gicumbi District. Compared to Rulindo, the Water for People Everyone Forever program is relatively new to Gicumbi, but a great deal of progress has already been made.

After our final ‘Coffee Club’ visit to Question Coffee, went set out for the Gicumbi District and were hosted for a Mayoral visit. Although early in the Everyone Forever process, great progress has already been made, and the Mayor was optimistic they could reach every goal ahead of schedule. Once again, it was very encouraging to see the District Government supporting the Water for People work and committing to long term success.

 

Water Treatment Plant

Following our meeting with the Mayor, we conducted field visits to a small rural Water Treatment Plant, a decentralized sludge processing facility, a recently completed water distribution system, and a home visit.

Unlike the large WTF serving Kigali, the WTF we toured today was a small, rural plant that treats approximately 0.4 MGD of spring-fed water. The plant treats the water using lime pH adjustment, aeration, filtration and chlorination. The plant is looking to expand capacity by adding additional spring sources and upgrades to the treatment process.

DEFAST

A highlight for me as a wastewater engineer was touring the Decentralized Fecal Sludge Treatment (DEFAST). As sanitation facilities are installed through Rwanda, there is an increased demand for safe disposal of the pit latrine waste. Historically, when a pit would become full of waste, you would just dig a new pit beside it. With increased focus on sanitary conditions and space becoming limited, there is now a need for improved latrines to be serviced and emptied. The service must be affordable for homeowners. Although Water for People does not fund widespread sanitation infrastructure projects in the same way they fund water projects, they support sanitation improvements through education, technology research and recommendations, establishment of supply chains, and support of local businesses and entrepreneurs.

The DEFAST facility is an example of the Water for People sanitation approach. Water for People has helped a local solid waste business owner expand his business to include pumping, hauling and treatment of latrine sludge waste. A portable vacuum pump is used to empty the latrines, and the waste is brought to the DEFAST plant for treatment. The plant screens large debris and rubbish for onsite incineration. The waste is then stored in a settling tank for separation of liquid and solid waste. The liquid supernatant receives biological treatment in lagoons and filtration though artificial wetlands. The final liquid product is sold as liquid nutrients. The sludge is anaerobically digested and applied to sand drying beds. The dried product is stabilized with charcoal and sold as fertilizer for land application. The ability to sell the end products allows the economics of the process to reduce the price for individual homeowners.

The Impact of Our Dollars

We briefly visited a recently completed water system which provided a fascinating look into the impact our dollars can make in a Rwandan community. The project included new water infrastructure to serve over 33,000 beneficiaries and cost approximately $3.2M USD. The cost to bring water and sanitation to a community for the first time costs less than $100 per person. This is considered an expensive project by Water for People Rwanda standards, who typically target a cost of $65 per beneficiary.

Home Visit

Lastly, we visited another home. This home belonged to a widow who lost her husband to the Rwandan genocide. It was once again heart warming to hear of the positive impact water has had on her life. It was also comforting to see that the Rwandan government had provided her with a cow and that her community supported her by providing work opportunities.

The drive back was long, dark and winding. Driving in Rwanda is an intense experience. Vehicles often pass each other on narrow roads and get close to pedestrians and obstacles as they wind through the hilly countryside. The driving made several people nervous, but we were always delivered safely to our destinations. As we proceeded towards our farewell dinner, we drove through areas not yet reached by Water for People and saw countless school children and people returning from work, walking long distances in the dark, with no lights, often pushing bicycles comically loaded sky-high with goods. It was a sobering reminder of how much work is left to do.

Farewell, Water for People

The farewell dinner was bittersweet. The food and conversation were great. We shared stories and laughter with our new friends, but too soon it was time to say goodbye. We shared one last time our high and low points of the day, and shared our ideas from bringing our experiences home in a meaningful way.

Although the trip had come to an end, I knew that my Water for People journey was just beginning. I am excited to bring all I’ve learned home and to become a champion for Water for People.

High Point: My high point today was the visit to the DEFAST facility. It was fascinating to hear about the approach Water for People had taken to address the emerging problem of fecal sludge in Rwanda. It was also fun to engage with the staff about their challenges and discuss their ideas for improve control and performance of the facility.

Low Point: Saying goodbye to new friends.

Learn more about the Water Treatment Plants here.

Passion, Inspiration, and Dirty Hands

Passion, Inspiration, and Dirty Hands

James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.


Day 2

Today kicked off with a workshop at the Water for People Rwanda office in Kigali. Perpetue and her team at the office lead a fascinating and inspiring discussion of Water for People’s work in Rwanda moving towards the Everyone Forever goal .

Water for People’s “Everyone Forever” model was born in Rwanda. This approach is brilliant, because it involves a lot more than projects. It is a system of partnerships promoting cooperation and ownership from local businesses, organizations and government. It is important that solutions be sustainable to allow for success to continue long after Water for People has left a district.

As the team delved into the details and peppered the Rwanda staff with questions, it became clear they had simple, common sense answers for some very complex issues. The people of Rwanda are in great hands.

The team took a break halfway through the presentation to stretch and play some games that are used to teach children hygiene skills. The first game was designed to show the importance of proper hand washing. Six cans are stacked in a pyramid on top of a picture of hands. The cans have images of dirt, germs and diseases. Students take turns throwing soap (green balls) at the cups until the hands are all clean. It was our turn to play. The staff looked for volunteers to kick off the game. I confidently strode to the front of the line, grabbed a soap ball, went into the wind-up, and let it rip.

It was truly impressive just how badly I missed the cans, but I did manage to hit an unsuspecting security guard. I had very generously set the bar low, for my fellow handwashers. There were a lot of laughs, and even more dirty hands. If you’re wondering if I managed to redeem myself on subsequent throws . . . not really.

Following the second half of the workshop and a team lunch, we set off into the field. We traveled to the Kicukiro District, which includes parts of Kigali. The first stop was a water treatment facility. The plant uses the Nyabarongo River as its source and provides water for 60% of Kigali’s 5M population. The average day demand produced at the facility is almost 16 MGD. The plant employs mechanically-cleaned screens, coagulation and flocculation, two-stage sand/anthracite filtration, and chlorination. Finally, the treated water is pumped to a storage tank 1,200 feet above the plant. At the time of our visit, the source water, as seen in the photo, had a turbidity of 865 NTU. The treated water achieved a turbidity of 0.40 NTU. The plant was impressive to see, and as clean as any facility we see back home.

Our last stop for the day was a water point installed in the Kicukiro district. The water point was installed as part of the Water for People effort in this district. Before this water point was installed, water was fetched from a swamp, a four-hour round trip journey. We met the water seller, a local resident who donated the land where the water point was installed. She operates and maintains the water point and collects the water fee of 200 Rwandan Francs for each 20 liter water can. This equates to approximately $0.04 per gallon. Each month the water distribution system operators read the water meter and she pays them for the water, keeping a small profit for her work operating and maintaining the water point.

It was very heartwarming to see how proud the community was of their water point and to hear how women and children were using the time saved to seek opportunities for work and education. This interaction was the high point for me on a day with many great moments.

High & Low

High Point: Meeting the water seller and learning firsthand the real difference Water for People is making in people’s lives. It is one thing to read the success stories, but it’s so much more impactful to meet the people impacted and talk to them about their lives and experiences.

Low Point: Today the low point was being out in the field and seeing how difficult life is for many of the people there. Despite all the great work being done, there is a lot more work to do. In the meantime,  there are a lot of people, including children, who live in conditions that frankly, just aren’t good enough yet.

 

Managing Nutrient Pollution in Our Water

Managing Nutrient Pollution in Our Water

Runoff of phosphorus and nitrogen from farming, stormwater, and wastewater treatment plants is an increasing issue for aquatic environments around the world. While phosphate and nitrogen are natural and necessary components of aquatic ecosystems, too much can be dangerous. Excess amounts of these nutrients, also known as nutrient pollution, is detrimental to plants, wildlife, waterways, and our own public health. Although this issue is not new, there’s been an uptick in awareness as water and wastewater utilities aim to improve drinking water quality and meet regulatory requirements.

 

Problems with Excess Nutrients

Nutrient pollution is a widespread problem that affects rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and coastal waters across the country.

 

Algal Blooms

Increased levels of phosphorus and nitrogen can cause harmful algal blooms that ultimately lead to the production of toxins and elevated bacteria levels that are harmful to people and wildlife. In fact, nutrient pollution can cause issues in water quality both near and far from the location where the nutrients enter the water source. A study from the US Water Alliance noted an instance of water pollution where excess nutrients from the Mississippi River Basin caused toxic algal blooms 2,300 miles downstream in the Gulf of Mexico. The algae later decomposed, all while consuming large amounts of oxygen and creating dead zones in which aquatic organisms could not survive.

 

harmful algal blooms covering a body of water

 

Treatment Costs

When it comes to treating wastewater and providing high-quality drinking water to customers, costs will rise for water utilities should the water be saturated with excess nutrients.

 

Recreational Opportunities

The problems that stem from excess nutrients in water bodies negatively impact the livelihood of those who use the water for recreational purposes. According to the EPA, the US tourism industry loses nearly $1 billion each year, while the commercial fishing industry loses tens of millions.

 

Sources of Excess Nutrients

Most excess nutrients in the water originate from agricultural runoff, urban stormwater, and discharge from wastewater treatment plants. There are two types of sources – “point” sources and “nonpoint” sources. Point sources typically refer to industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint sources refer to agricultural and stormwater runoff.

 

Point Sources

$1.4 trillion in public funding has been invested in improving municipal wastewater treatment facilities to address nutrient pollution since 1972.

 

 

Nonpoint Sources

The primary approach to reducing nutrient pollution of agricultural nonpoint sources has been the implementation of ‘Best Management Practices’. Best practices vary on a farm-by-farm basis and have the potential to be cost-effective or expensive, depending on several factors. Because farm practices are unpredictable due to cropping patterns, soil properties, hydrology, and weather, many farmers are hesitant to change their current practice. Compared to point sources, a mere $5 billion has bene spent by the federal government to incentivize farmers to implement strategies for nutrient reduction. Additionally, when it comes to nonpoint sources of excess nutrients including stormwater, a lot more can be done on the ground level. Being mindful of what goes down the drain in our yards, and on the streets, can have a huge impact.

 

Efforts for Reducing Nutrient Pollution

There are many programs in place on both the federal and state level to help reduce nutrient pollution levels. Below are just a few.

 

The Clean Water Act

This Act regulates point source discharge and requires all dischargers to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the state. NPDES permits enforce limits on the concentration of nutrients that can be discharged into surface waters. Under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, the EPA also supports state efforts to reduce nonpoint sources of nutrient pollution with its $160 million grant program. According to the EPA, activities supported by these programs may include implementation of state nonpoint source management plans, state regulatory and non-regulatory programs, watershed prioritization and planning, and nonpoint source monitoring.

 

Financing

Several loans exist specifically for upgrades and construction of wastewater facilities. The State Revolving Fund program offers low-interest loans for wastewater treatment infrastructure, and the USDA’s Rural Development Water and Environmental Programs provide long-term, low-interest loans and grants for the construction of these facilities in rural communities. The USDA and EPA also support the reduction of nutrient pollution by incentivizing voluntary action by nonpoint sources. There are a handful of programs that provide a mix of funding directly to farmers, or to groups at the community or state level.

 

Partnerships

The EPA and five other federal agencies co-lead the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force. This federal initiative was developed in 2008 (and adopted by 12 states) to reduce nutrient loads by 20 percent by 2025 and by 45 percent by 2035. Other partnerships created to reduce the impacts of nutrient pollution include Source Water Collaborative and the Animal Agriculture Discussion Group.

 

Outreach

The EPA is working with its partners to combat nutrient pollution in water bodies throughout the country. They’ve created a wealth of communication and outreach materials to increase awareness of the causes, effects, and solutions to nutrient pollution.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, we must continue addressing the problem of nutrient pollution in water bodies across the country. While there are several initiatives in place to combat the harmful effects of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the environment, nutrient pollution is increasing at a quicker rate than what is being done to eliminate it. Federal and state agencies, farmers, and even you can play a tremendous role in reducing nutrient pollution. Learn what you can do within your community here.

Wastewater Rundown: Direct Potable Reuse Vs. Indirect Potable Reuse

Wastewater Rundown: Direct Potable Reuse Vs. Indirect Potable Reuse

Every day we encounter wastewater. We create it through flushing the toilet, washing our hands, taking showers, running the dishwasher, and more. In fact, all water affected by human use is wastewater. Although it’s a constant part of our lives, wastewater is often overlooked. Have you ever thought about what happens to the water we flush away? Where does it go? How does it get treated? Do we use it again? Read on to learn about the ways in which we utilize treated wastewater, particularly through direct potable reuse and indirect potable reuse.

The Quick (and Dirty)

The wastewater treatment process begins the second a drop of water goes down the drain. That water becomes sewage – which is 99 percent dirty water. The other one percent is made up of solids, chemicals, fats, nutrients, and other miscellaneous matter. From here, water travels within the sewage network through pipes, pumps, and plants for treatment. First in this process is the screening of large objects and debris from the water. Next, bacteria, contaminants, organic, and inorganic matter are removed through digestion and aeration processes. Within these phases, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are reduced to protect the environment and support our communities. When the water is clean, it then goes on to be clarified and disinfected with chlorine or ultraviolet light.

A Bright Idea

For as long as time, humans have relied on the natural water cycle to obtain drinking water. From the days of sifting water from brooks to later advancements including drinking water treatment facilities – the source of our drinking water has always come from surface or groundwater. When water is plentiful, we source it from watersheds and treat it to drinking water standards. But what happens when water supplies run low? When there is less rain and more demand for water? One solution is potable water reuse – the notion of reusing the used water we normally discard for drinking. The two types of potable water reuse are indirect potable reuse and direct potable reuse.

Indirect Potable Reuse

Indirect potable reuse (IPR) is more common and has been successfully used within the United States for the last 50 years. With IPR, water is first treated at a wastewater treatment facility. It is then pumped into a natural basin or reservoir where it is filtered naturally through the ground before being sent back into the water supply. The downside of IPR is that the water gets ‘dirty’ all over again and needs to be treated once more before it is safe to drink.

Direct Potable Reuse

On the contrary, direct portable reuse (DPR) is a fairly new concept and involves the treatment and distribution of water without an environmental buffer. In this process, the very clean water from the advanced water purification plant is put straight back into the water supply. These advanced purification systems are used by utilities around the world and process and test the water supply to ensure standards are met.

T&H designed the Home Farm Water Treatment Plant in Shrewsbury, MA

The first DPR system was implemented about five years ago in Big Spring, TX to face the state’s relentless droughts. The DPR system at the Colorado River Municipal Water District in Big Spring takes treated wastewater, purifies it, and then mixes it with the city’s regular water supply. Eventually, water heads back to consumers’ taps.

Although the DPR process is new in the grand scheme of things, it has proven to be effective. As we face global climate change and recognize drinking water as the valuable resource it is, innovations like DPR are certainly beneficial.

What are your thoughts on DPR?

 

Clean Water Inspired by the Form of a Flower

Clean Water Inspired by the Form of a Flower

When thinking of flowers, it’s hard not to appreciate the water that is necessary for them to grow. But have you ever thought about the significance of a flower when it comes to clean water?

A team in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin has developed a new device for collecting and purifying water. Inspired by the structure of a rose, the flower-like device costs less than two cents to make and can supply more than a half-gallon of water per square meter.

water filtration and production device that resembles the inner workers of a rose.
Photo: UTexas.edu

Inspiration

The team of Ph.D. candidates led by Professor Donglei Fan were fueled by the creation of a new approach for solar steaming – a technique that uses energy from the sun to separate salt and other impurities from water through evaporation. Their origami rose inspired system could be a new paradigm for water production and treatment for both individuals and homes.

Existing solar-steaming technologies are typically bulky, expensive, and produce limited results. The UT team aimed to create a solution using portable, lightweight and inexpensive materials. The result – a product that looks like a black-petaled rose in a glass jar. While portable and low-pressure controlled solar-steaming systems known as ‘unisystems’ do exist, the flower structure portion of the design is new.

Inner-workings

The system is made from layered, black paper sheets that are shaped into petals. The 3D rose shape, attached to a stem-like tube that collects untreated water from any water source, makes it easier for the structure to collect and retain more liquid. The black paper is filtered and coated with a polymer known as polypyrrole. Polypyrrole is a material known for its photothermal properties – meaning that it coverts solar light into thermal heat.

Water Collection

There are two ways in which the device collects water. The first is through the stem-like tube that feeds water to the flower-inspired structure on top. The second way is through collecting water from above – occurring in instances such as rainfall. In either case, water finds its way to the petals where the polypyrrole coating turns the water into steam. The impurities are naturally separated from water when condensed in this way. By the end of the purification process, the device can remove contamination from heavy metals and bacteria, as well as salt from seawater. The result is clean water that meets drinking standard requirements set by the World Health Organization.

In addition to the new, flower-like structure, the system was also designed to include a connection point for a low-pressure pump. This pump will help condense water more effectively. Once condensed, water will fall into a compact, sturdy and secure glass jar. Weigu Li, a Ph.D. candidate in Fan’s lab said that their “rational design and low-cost fabrication of 3D origami photothermal materials represents a first-of-its-kind portable low-pressure solar-steaming-collection system” could inspire a new wave of clean water production technologies.

New Law Affects Small Community Water Systems

A New Connecticut Law to Affect the State’s Water Industry

Effective October 1, 2018, Connecticut’s Department of Public Health (DPH) is requiring all small community water systems to complete Fiscal and Asset Management Plans by January 1, 2021 and update them annually. This new law effects small water companies that regularly serve communities of at least 25 but not more than 1,000 year-round residents.

The Fiscal and Asset Management Plan must include:

  1. A list of all the system’s capital assets;
  2. The asset’s (a) useful life, based on their current condition, (b) maintenance and service history, and (c) manufacturer’s recommendation;
  3. The small community water system’s plan for reconditioning, refurbishing, or replacing the assets; and
  4. Information on (a) whether the small community water system has any unaccounted-for water loss (i.e., water supplied to its distribution system that never reached consumers), (b) the amount and cause of such unaccounted-for water loss, and (c) measures the system is taking to reduce it.

Under the new law, each small community water system must also complete an initial assessment review of its hydropneumatic pressure tanks by May 2, 2019 on a form developed by the DPH.

Failure to complete or update their fiscal and asset management plans on or before January 1, 2021 maybe subject to civil penalties by DPH.

Compliance Concerns?

Tata & Howard has extensive experience with all facets of asset management planning and programming. Our services focus on condition assessment and analyses of critical capital assets, as well as operational evaluations, water audits to reduce unaccounted-for water, and long-term capital planning.  Initial hydropneumatic pressure tank inspections can be also be performed in time to comply with the DPH deadline of May 2, 2019.

In addition, Tata & Howard can help secure financing through grants, such as those available through the USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Program.

More Info?

Asset Management

Tata & Howard has assisted numerous Water Companies with their Asset Management Planning.  Please contact us for more information.

3 Sustainable Clean Water Ideas for a Warming World

3 Sustainable Clean Water Ideas for a Warming World

Climate Change Brings New Innovation to the Water Environment

The summer of 2018 saw devastating fires blazing all over the world. Nearly 100 people died in raging fires across the southern coast of Greece. More than 50 wildfires scorched Sweden where the temperature north of the Arctic Circle soared into the 90’s causing drought conditions. Record breaking temperatures across the globe from Montreal to Great Britain topped 98 degrees this summer.  In Japan, 22,000 people were hospitalized when temps climbed to 106 degrees. And, in normally cool Oslo, the thermometer climbed to 86 degrees for 16 consecutive days. From Southern California and Arizona to India and Pakistan, withering heat reached a deadly 110 degrees that parched the environment.

ThermometerThe most alarming news is the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded reached 124.3 degrees in Algeria this July.

Fires, heat and drought of this scope and scale seem to be becoming the new normal. These extreme events point to a planet that is warming and perhaps faster than scientists have predicted.

Although the effects of climate change may vary widely in different geographic regions, those areas already hardest hit with drought and arid conditions may be in the most critical need of clean drinking water.

This crisis will only get worse as the earth’s population conceivably could grow exponentially in the next 50 years and adequate supplies of water become even more scarce. In addition to supplying all these thirsty people with clean water, the chilling paradox is the increased demand on already-scarce resources means there is a greater chance that existing water sources will become polluted by human waste, industrial toxins, and contaminated agricultural runoff.

It is human nature to postpone change and sacrifice as long as possible. But it is clear that public service announcements warning residents to save water, take shorter showers, plant resilient gardens, and conserve, is not going to be enough to help avoid a global water shortage.  Fortunately, scientists and researchers are working diligently to solve some very complex problems to provide innovative and sustainable clean water solutions for the future.

Here are three cutting edge ideas for sustainable water supplies that just may help a warming world.

Ancient Bacteria for Modern Water Purification

Anaerobic or oxygen-averse bacteria to treat wastewater is back in vogue… after a billion years. When the earth was a toxic primordial goo, anaerobic bacteria thrived in the oxygen deprived world forming the first signs of life.  Environmental engineers at Stamford University are now bringing back these ancient microorganisms as a more cost-effective wastewater treatment process.

Primordial-bacteriaWastewater treatment plants that use aerobic bacteria must provide oxygen with huge and costly electrically powered blowers for these microorganisms to survive. Anaerobic bacteria treatment processes do not need oxygen and use considerably less energy, making the wastewater treatment process more economical to operate. In addition to saving money, engineers believe these anaerobes can filter household and industrial chemicals better than conventional treatment plants.

Full-scale plants utilizing anaerobic bacteria may soon be capable of processing millions of gallons of wastewater per day into refreshing clean water.

Mega Scale Desalination

Desalination plants may not have been around as long as ancient bacteria, but this technology is not a new concept either.  What is news however, is the increasing role desalination will have in the future. Israel’s Sorek desalination plant is the largest seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in the world providing 627,000 cubic meters per day (m3/d) or the equivalent to about 166,000,000 gallons of water per day (gpd) to Israelis.

desalination-plant
Shawaikh Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination plant in Saudi Arabia.

Desalination plants which were notoriously expensive energy hogs have become less energy-intensive as technologies have improved. Using renewable energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal along with advanced technologies including thin-film nanocomposite membranes, captive deionization (most suitable for brackish water), forward osmosis, and metal–organic framework (MOF) biological cell membranes that requires very little water pressure, water desalination is becoming more efficient and cost effective. The new cutting-edge membranes can even filter out precious metals such as lithium used in batteries.

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer of desalinated water in the world with its 32 desalination plants and growing, will soon be producing a historic 5 million m3/d or the equivalent of about 1,321,000,000 gpd, a global record of desalinated water. Benefiting from this leading-edge technology, Cape Town South Africa may have averted a catastrophic “Day Zero” when the City’s first desalination plant went online, preventing a water doomsday for its residents.With the world’s oceans holding about 96.5 percent of all Earth’s water and with more innovation, desalination may prove to be this thirsty world’s salvation.

 

Drinking Water from the Air

Another old idea that is gaining favor is converting fog into drinking water. Super-sized moisture collection systems could allow people living in coastal or mountainous areas to convert fog into safe drinking water. Collection traps are made from a 3D mesh that can withstand high wind speeds, while still retaining and accumulating water in storage tanks. With a variety of sizes available, these fog systems can be used for individual needs or supplying water for entire villages.

fog-nets
Super-sized fog nets can capture moisture in coastal or mountainous areas to convert fog into safe drinking water.

Combine this idea with giant Atmosphere Water Generators (AWG), which takes moisture or humidity directly out of the air and converts it into potable water.  Even in the driest of lands, the air is loaded with water molecules and enough drinking water converted from AWG’s could provide communities with a continuous and sustainable source of clean water.

On a large scale, the AWG units can be mounted on the roof-tops of commercial or residential buildings.  When powered by renewable energy, these systems can create safe local drinking water efficiently and economically. Water districts and municipalities managing these units, can provide as much as 55 m3 /d or about 14,500 gallons per day, enough to service each building independently with water.

AWG Towers
Large scale Atmosphere Water Generators can be installed on roof tops.

Collected water from both fog collection systems or AWG’s may seem farfetched. But consider this, 80 percent of California’s water goes to irrigate farms and the other 20 percent of water use goes to urban use. Collected water from the air could be used to irrigate crops or other commercial watering needs.

Water conservation and alternative technologies such as fog collection systems and AWG units can supplement our increasing demand for clean water and these ideas just might may make a difference.

 

The Future is for Innovation

Combating climate change and managing our depleting water resources is a reality we can’t ignore. The devasting fires, drought and heat from 2018, is a reminder that our actions today may help avert a global catastrophe in the future. These innovative ideas and others still in development are one step forward to a more sustainable world.

Our future depends on it!

Drinking Water That is Out of This World

Drinking Water That is Out of This World

Reclaiming Wastewater on the Space Station has an impact right here on Earth!

Water—it’s essential for all living beings… and water is essential to make life possible.   It’s an interesting paradox that has kept scientists searching for life in extreme places.

Outer spaceWhen NASA recently announced the discovery of liquid water flowing under an ice cap on Mars, it opened the exciting possibility that life may exist outside our earthly abode.  While it is conceivable scientists may eventually discover life somewhere in our galaxy, a reliable source of water outside earth is fundamental for the possibility of establishing a colony on Mars, exploring the universe and even visiting distant planets in search of life outside earth.

This is the stuff of science fiction…or is it?

Well, let’s get the stars out of our eyes and return to earth.  First, we need to get to Mars and therein lies the challenge. Top on the list is how to provide the essentials for life, such as water, air and the entire habitat for the astronauts to live in as they journey among the stars.

Getting to Space

Establishing a sustainable long-term flight program requires a base to launch manned operations in space. The International Space Station (ISS), which was put into orbit in 1998 and has been continuously occupied since 2000, currently provides a habitable place for astronauts to live and conduct scientific experiments.

SpaceX Docking in ISSBut hauling tons of supplies and materials to the International Space Station (ISS) is inefficient and extremely expensive. Sustaining a crew of four astronauts on the ISS with water, power and other supplies, costs nearly one million dollars a day.  Even with the reusable SpaceX rocket which regularly provides supplies to the ISS, it costs $2,500 per pound to launch into space. With four astronauts living on the ISS needing approximately 12 gallons of water a day, it is impractical to stock the ISS with the tons of water needed for long periods of time.

It’s no wonder then that rationing, and recycling is an essential part of daily life on the ISS.  The Space Station must provide not only clean water, but air to breath, power, and ideal atmospheric conditions to sustain life outside earth.

And every drop of liquid is important!

Reclaiming Water for Life Support

The Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) on the ISS is a life support system that provides atmospheric pressure, oxygen levels, waste management and water supply, and fire detection and suppression. The most important function for ECLSS is controlling the atmosphere for the crew, but the system also collects, processes, and stores waste and water produced by the crew…including the furry lab passengers too.

Yes, even mice waste is recycled.

mouse and waterIf the idea of drinking reclaimed water from mice urine and other waste sources sounds unappetizing, consider this, the water the astronauts drink is often cleaner that what many earthlings drink.  NASA regularly checks the water quality and it is monitored for bacteria, pollutants and proper pH (60 – 8.5).

This highly efficient reclamation system processes and recycles fluid from the sink, shower, toilet, sweat, and even condensation from the air. The ECLSS water recovery system on the ISS uses both physical and chemical processes to remove contaminants, as well as filtration and temperature sterilization to ensure the water is safe to drink.

More Innovation for the Future

Providing the astronauts with clean water from reclaimed wastewater at the Space Station is working fine for what they need right now, but it’s not perfect. The ISS system recovers water at a rate of approximately 74 percent. For longer missions to Mars and beyond, this rate must increase to at least 98 percent to sustain longer journeys into space. Scientists are continuously working on better and more efficient close-looped support systems to reduce water loss and improve ways to reclaim water from all waste products.

bacteriaRecently, NASA invested in a new, lower cost solution to biologically recycle and reuse water developed by Pancopia. Pancopia is a small environmental and energy engineering company located in Virginia that focuses on wastewater treatment and research and development projects. Engineers at the firm have discovered an innovative technology that makes use of a group of bacteria called anammox.  Anammox when combined with two other types of bacteria commonly used in conventional wastewater treatment (nitrifiers and denitrifiers), can remove high levels of organic carbon and nitrogen, the two primary pollutants in wastewater.

The combination of these three organisms naturally adjust to changes in the system and eliminates pollutants faster and more reliably than traditional wastewater treatment operations.  And, the cost is significantly less to operate than conventional systems, which requires a lot of energy and consumables to run. In addition, the stability of the anammox process reduces costs by requiring fewer manpower hours to monitor and operate.

Back on Earth

What does all this water and wastewater reclamation innovation mean for us on earth?

Desert in WaterPancopia is currently working on a similar system used on the ISS for municipal wastewater facilities. Using the technology developed for the Space Station, other areas in the world with limited access to clean drinking water, will soon be able to utilize this advanced water filtration and purification system.

This innovative water recycling system initially intended for the astronauts, now has the potential to cut treatment expenses to less than half the current costs for municipal customers, while providing sustainable crystal-clear drinking water especially in arid and drought-stricken communities across the globe.

Man’s search for extraterrestrial life and desire to travel through space may actually have its greatest impact right here on Earth—clean water!

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

Drinking Water contaminated with lead can be a health hazard.

Whether water comes from a Public Water System or a private well, water contaminated with lead is most likely the result from corrosion of the plumbing materials, lead pipes, or the service lines from the water main in the street to the building.

Here are some facts about lead contamination and tips to avoid lead in drinking water.

6-Facts-About-Lead-in-Drinking-Water

Please feel free to print and share our 6 Lead Facts Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc.