Growing demand for water and limited supplies are forcing people in all areas of society to rethink how they use water. Now developing technology has provided a partial solution to water scarcity: water reuse, or water recycling. From Peru to Sweden to Qatar, Xylem’s innovative breakthroughs are making every drop count.
A 2009 McKinsey report, called “Charting Our Water Future,” made the situation entirely clear – the world is running out of freshwater. In the foreword to the report, Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander describes an impending “water gap” that could have devastating consequences: “In just 20 years, this report shows, demand for water will be 40 percent higher than it is today, and more than 50 percent higher in the most rapidly developing countries. Historic rates of supply expansion and efficiency improvement will close only a fraction of this gap.”
The expected results? People going hungry, degraded environments, and economic development put at risk. Yet the report does find hope coming from a few directions, one of them technological development: “Innovation in water technology – in everything from supply (such as desalination) to industrial efficiency (such as more efficient water reuse) to agricultural technologies (such as crop protection and irrigation controls) – could play a major role in closing the supply-demand gap.”
Just three years after this report was released, exciting research and technological advances are showing that reusing water really can help meet the world’s growing water needs. A recent report from the U.S. National Research Council, for example, found that reusing municipal wastewater effluent currently discharged into U.S. coastal waters would “directly augment available water resources, equivalent to 6 percent of the estimated total U.S. water use, or 27 percent of public supply.”
Recycling water for agriculture in Peru
Peru is just one country where the supply of extracted freshwater is dwindling. Around 80 percent of the country’s freshwater is used for agricultural purposes, which makes using reclaimed water a necessity.
Xylem has helped to completely redesign the Sedapal wastewater treatment plant in Manchay, near Lima, so that it complies with tighter governmental regulations and produces high quality recycled water for agricultural irrigation at a lower cost.
Now operational for almost two years, this was one of the first such treatment plants in the country. In addition to generating reusable water used to irrigate 1,000 acres of farmland each day, the plant extracts around 900 kilograms of dried biosolids from the wastewater, which are used to enrich agricultural soil and for landfill cover.
Six years of experience and counting
In the past, the thought of using recycled water might have been met with pessimism. But today’s water reuse solutions and processes, such as those offered by Xylem, are so advanced they help ensure that water supplies are reused as safely as possible.
“We’ve been active in the water reuse market for the last six years,” says Siva Sankaramanchi, Director of Water Reuse at Xylem. “Today, we offer the full range of technology and processes needed to convert raw sewage into reusable non-potable water.”
Over 50 percent of the world’s recycled water is used for agricultural purposes such as crops, orchards, vineyards and grazing pastures for livestock. Most of the water Xylem treats is used for irrigation, urban landscaping, and environmental, recreational and industrial use. However, even if the treated water is not meant for drinking, the same stringent government regulations apply, according to Sankaramanchi, since water used for crops and irrigation can come into contact with humans.
That’s where Xylem fits into the picture. “We are embarking on a sustainable water reuse infrastructure platform to address the critical needs of water use in a number of areas. These include agricultural, industrial and municipal segments with limited water supply, especially in Australia, India, the Middle East and Latin America,” he explains.
Improving irrigation in the Middle East
In Qatar, Xylem is currently working with a local utility on the construction of the Doha South wastewater facility, which will become operational in 2013. It is expected to recycle around 200 million liters of water per day, which will be used for landscape irrigation in the city.
While Xylem works on various water reuse projects across the globe, the company is also exploring ways to take its know-how to the next level.
Innovative research in Sweden
In Stockholm, Xylem is collaborating with IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, in a two-year project to investigate ways to further improve water recycling technology and processes.
“All of our water reuse offerings will be tested to optimize the solution,” says Sankaramanchi. Improvements, he believes, will be necessary to keep up with, and ahead of, increasingly tighter government regulations governing water reuse around the world.
“Innovation in this area is important,” he says. “Therefore, findings from this study and our own in-house research will lead to even greater advances in the global issue of finding smart and economical ways to generate top-quality reusable water.”
An integrated water reuse solution
“Our key advantage is that we own most of the critical products used for water reuse processes, so we can bundle technologies through our in-depth process and application design expertise,” Sankaramanchi says. “We offer an integrated solution, designed to optimize value and costs.”
The Xylem water reuse portfolio includes Flygt pumps and mixers, Leopold filters, WEDECO UV, Ozone and AOP, Lowara pumps, Analytics instrumentation tools, and more. All these products are combined to offer a complete solutions package to address customer needs.
“Our ultimate goal is to combine high-tech innovation with a focus on energy efficiency and value engineering to make the water reuse plant as sustainable and automated as possible for a long time,” Sankaramanchi says.