Water Treatment Innovation for a Better Future

“We’re always looking for the overlaps between ecology, cost-efficiency and technological capabilities. When these all align, the impact can be spectacular.”

Jens Scheideler - a Commercialization Manager in Water Treatment for Xylem - develops ground-breaking water treatment technologies.

When I’m looking to wind down from work, I love to get out on the lakes and rivers near my home. Out on the water, it’s obvious how important purity is for the planet and for aquatic life. But living in Germany, a water-rich country, meant it took a while for me to realize just how essential water quality is for the human race. However today – with climate change and population growth, among other issues – water challenges are increasingly impacting communities all over the world – every country and every community faces water threats.

That’s why I consider myself so lucky, I do a job that matters. When you’re using your skills to work with water operators to remove pollutants from water, you really are helping people live better lives.

Eighteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to go straight from my Chemistry studies into a job at Xylem, turning scientific theory into reality in the area of Water Treatment. For me, it’s like working in a grown-up science playground, combining my interest in technology with the knowledge that we’re doing vital work. And the more time I’ve spent here, the more I’ve loved what we do in partnering with our customers to solve water – and what the industry is achieving.

Playing a central role in implementing the world’s first sequential Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) system serving 1,000,000+ people in The Netherlands is another career high point. This system combines the power of Ozone, Hydrogen Peroxide and Ultraviolet light to destroy contaminants of emerging concern and to enhance the biological removal of their metabolites. It took almost a decade to get from concept to reality, always driven by the economical and process benefits in mind. Seeing the results come to life in reality was a very proud moment.

I also worked on the world’s first UV Hypo AOP system for portable reuse in Los Angeles -- the first installations of their kind setting a new trend in the industry and helping to reduce chemical dosing and making water reuse more affordable. The City’s Terminal Island Water Reclamation Plant put together a leading technology platform including microfiltration, reverse osmosis followed by an advanced oxidation process, which was provided by Xylem. The system produces purified, recycled water for indirect potable reuse. It’s the first ever full-scale UV/chlorine advanced oxidation process for groundwater recharge. Today, the plant can purify and recycle more than 15 million gallons of water every day. It’s humbling to think these solution will be remembered and used for years to come.

The stakes are very high with this work; it’s also a balancing act. We’re constantly aware of the latest developments, not just in technology and science, but also sustainability and conservation. We’re always looking for the overlaps between ecology, cost-efficiency and technological capabilities. When we get this alignment spot on, the impact can be spectacular.

For instance, more than 3.6 billion people live in areas that are potentially water-scarce at least one month per year. This means reusing water is more important than ever.

We partnered with the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water and Berliner Wasserbetriebe, a water utility in Berlin, to help create Reuse Brew, a beer that used recycled wastewater, we changed more than the beer. We changed mindsets and created buzz about recycled water. For CNET’s video about Reuse Brew watch here.

Xylem also teamed with Manchester City Football Club (Manchester City) and the Heineken Manchester brewery to produce “Raining Champions” – a limited edition beer made with purified rainwater collected from the rooftop of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, as part of a broader partnership between Xylem and Manchester City to engage football fans globally about water challenges. Perceptions matter. We never forget that we have to bring the public with us.

Xylem is constantly innovating. For example, we’re using technologies without membranes to avoid the discharge of high salinity brine into the ocean or other receiving streams and to save energy. These so called “alternative” treatment trains leading the way towards more affordable and sustainable water reuse.

We’ve got data scientists, transport specialists and experts in digital analytics introducing new viewpoints and driving progress. That’s why I hope and truly believe we’re going to find more innovative ways to treat wastewater from developing countries and around the world in new and sustainable ways. I’m looking forward to seeing places like India and China return their rivers and lakes to their natural states, as precious clean water sources.

I love what Xylem and our customers, and the water sector overall, has been able to do so far, but it’s what we can do next, with things that don’t even exist yet, that’s most exciting of all!

by Jens Scheideler