7 key takeaways from the 34th Annual WateReuse Symposium

Trends and insights to advance the One Water movement.

This year’s WateReuse Symposium was all about collaborating to innovate. We joined hundreds of reuse experts to analyze the latest in treatment, delivery, funding and outreach opportunities. Here are seven takeaways from the event that communities, academic institutions, regulators, industry, and utilities can leverage to advance the One Water movement.

1. A smart city future depends on reuse

Multiple presentations discussed smart cities using on-site systems to capture and treat rainwater, stormwater, gray water and wastewater for reuse. Discussions stressed how tighter regulatory requirements, increased costs associated with Municipal Separate Storm System discharge requirements, fund availability, environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility strengthen the potential for smart solutions to make reuse viable in more communities.

Combining Intelligent Water tools such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics with One Water’s principles can make reuse a cornerstone of management. Insight-driven decisions will maximize finite resources to maintain a steady flow of drinking water into homes.

2. The EPA is drafting its reuse plan – and wants your help

David Ross, U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, led a panel to present the EPA’s draft Water Reuse Action Plan. The plan will integrate water reuse resource management through collaboration with industry and government water experts. The EPA is currently seeking public comments on the Draft Action Plan, and Ross noted how collected feedback will help the EPA enact a plan that accelerates water reuse projects in the U.S.

Comments on the draft plan may be submitted and viewed through the public docket on or before December 16, 2019.

3. Non-reverse osmosis (non-RO) treatments gaining momentum

Advanced treatment trains using non-reverse osmosis (non-RO) – like those in Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s SWIFT Program and LA Sanitation & Environment’s Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant – show potential for cutting construction and O&M costs. RO can be a useful barrier against salinity, pathogens and emerging contaminants, but energy requirements make it among the most expensive treatment processes. Plus, non-RO avoids the potential cost and environmental impacts associated with RO concentrate treatment and disposal.

RO might still be necessary in some facilities, like those that need to reduce salinity levels. These systems can benefit from innovative high-recovery RO technologies to maximize production and minimize concentrate flows. In addition, membrane bioreactor (MBR)-based advanced treatment is gaining popularity in California, where two large demonstrations are underway to determine feasibility of using MBR-based treatment in potable reuse trains.

4. Direct potable reuse (DPR) adoption is underway

DPR plans are being designed to create locally controlled, drought resistant and sustainable water sources that follow a One Water approach. Frameworks and regulations are in place in Arizona, Florida and California, with more states (e.g., Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Georgia) to follow.

5. Funding opportunities worth exploring

With reuse becoming a focus of U.S. resource management, funds and grants are available to help plan, pilot, demonstrate and implement water reuse projects. Funding opportunities include:

State-by-state opportunities are worth exploring as well. Low repayment rates (as low as 1%) for California State Revolving Funding and California Proposition 1, for example, are making it possible for more agencies to launch reuse programs.

6. Alternative delivery can enhance reuse

Alternative delivery might make it easier to align with One Water principles. Progressive design build and construction management at-risk and public-private partnership models have helped facilitate important reuse programs such as the SWIFT Program and the Santa Monica Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project.

7. Public education and outreach are critical

Attendees agreed that a potable reuse program will fail without effective public education and outreach. Messaging around reuse has evolved, and there’s a consensus around not using “Toilet to Tap.” Instead, phrases like “Purified Water,” “Drinking Water,” “Renewed Water,” and “Pure Water” will be more palatable to the public and reduce the “yuck factor” around reusing wastewater.

What’s next for reuse?

The symposium was an invigorating look into the future. It was clear that reuse continues to be a main component of One Water, and progress will be fueled by the treatments, delivery methods, outreach programs, funding opportunities and partnerships pushing the bounds of reuse’s potential.

With a commitment to collaboration and innovation, reuse leaders in all sectors can leverage Intelligent Water to make reuse a tenet of smart cities and long-term water management plans. Connect with us to find out how we can help.

Related perspective

For more on how Intelligent Water can advance the One Water movement, download out latest paper, Advancing the One Water movement with intelligence.

About the authors

Ufuk Erdal, PhD
Water reuse director

Ufuk has led the planning, pilot testing, design and delivery phases of more than 40 water reuse projects in the U.S. and Australia, many of which were potable reuse projects. He evaluated the pathogen removal capabilities of MBR systems in 2 full-scale MBR facilities. That work resulted in the first regulatory pathogen credits toward MBR systems in the U.S.

With more than 60 journal articles and conference proceedings, Ufuk has contributed to California’s direct potable reuse framework and is helping Georgia develop its own. Ufuk is currently serving the Water Research Foundation Board of Directors to research sustainable and cost-effective water management solutions.

Brent Alspach
Applied research director

Brent is the former President of the American Membrane Technology Association and current Chair of the AWWA Water Quality & Technology Division Board of Trustees. He also chaired the 2016 and 2019 AWWA International Symposium on Potable Reuse, a role he’ll reprise for the 2020 event in Atlanta, Georgia.

Working with the WateReuse Association, Brent helped develop the draft the U.S. EPA Water Reuse Action Plan. His current reuse focus areas are the utilizing stormwater as a supply source for municipal-scale potable reuse and building industry institutional knowledge.

Ufuk Erdal

Water Reuse Director, NA +1 714 508 2642 Ask me a question
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