US water reuse and supply project gets US$ 2 million

The US National Science Foundation announced on 29 July 2009 the award of US$ 2 million to Professor Kevin Lansey, head of the department of civil engineering and engineering mechanics and four of his colleagues at the University of Arizona(UA) to research water reuse and supply systems.

The NSF’s Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research & Innovation is funding the research project – Optimization of Dual Conjunctive Water Supply and Reuse Systems with Distributed Treatment for High-growth Water-scarce Regions – which will ultimately produce a computer model for water managers who are grappling with the problem of using less energy while meeting increased demand for water.

This research project is particularly relevant to the serious problems faced by water managers in Arizona, which is already experiencing explosive population growth coupled with drought. Arizona’s surface-water supplies, especially near urban areas, are all spoken for, and many communities rely on water pumped up from aquifers.

Such a resource is unsustainable, and some of Lansey’s research revolves around the question of how willing consumers are to reuse wastewater and to what extent.

“In water-scarce areas, people will eventually have to use reused water as part of their water supply,” said Lansey. “And now the question is how much further people will use it.”

Lansey defines the research project has having three goals, or three costs, what he describes as a “triple bottom line.” They are, he said, “economic cost, environmental cost – which includes energy consumption and greenhouse gas production – and social costs, or social acceptability.”

The research group will work with the City of Tucson, Pima County and Global Water, a private water provider.