Decentralized water, wastewater, energy links to be studied

Development and evaluation of advanced decentralized drinking-water and wastewater technologies is the objective of a new grant made by the US Environmental Protection Agency to University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering (UN-LCE)’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering & Construction.

The US$1.25 million grant, announced on 24 September 2009, seeks to couple advanced technologies with innovative renewable energy and energy-saving/recovery technologies, and then incorporate the proven technologies into green building and community design and construction,

Jonathan Shi, department chair for construction management at UN-LCE, leads the five-year grant with colleagues, including faculty members from the Peter Kiewit Institute. Focusing on household and community levels, Shi’s team will research and develop decentralized drinking water and wastewater technologies to improve drinking water quality, reduce the demand for fresh water intake, increase water reuse and reduce the burden on existing water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Shi cited examples of renewable energy saving and recovery technologies including use of heat pumps, adaptive photovoltaic systems and elastic power response controls. He said the next steps would apply those technologies to households, implement field testing and validation in test home sites, and extend these developments through Web resources for community planning, such as a decision support model with virtual environment.

“The benefits of this work will help utilities in designing new drinking water and wastewater systems, implementing comprehensive asset management, providing reliable service to customers and meeting their Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements,” Shi said. “They will also help homebuilders apply advanced decentralized dual water distribution systems, waste separation systems, treatment technologies and innovative energy technologies in developing green buildings and communities.”