Wastewater should be seen as resource, WERF tells NRC

A future in which wastewater treatment plants were renamed ‘resource recovery centres’ was outlined by Dan Woltering, the director of research for the Water Environment Research Federation (WERF) on 25 January 2010.

Woltering was making a presentation to a committee of the US National Resource Council (NRC) on water reuse.

In Woltering’s ideal future, noone would understand the word ‘wastewater’, since all water would be reused. In addition, energy would be harvested from water and waste, nutrients would be recycled and salts would be recovered.

The NRC, functioning under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), is preparing a report intended to be a practical guide to decision-makers evaluating their water supply alternatives. Since NAS reports also serve as catalysts for federal research funding, this presentation was an opportunity to promote WERF research priorities.

Woltering emphasized several of those priorities including:

  • The need for full-scale demonstrations of reuse technologies under actual use conditions;
  • Increased emphasis on reuse of stormwater and graywater;
  • Cost and energy efficient options that can be adapted to local situations; and
  • An overall shift to perceive wastewater is a resource with reuse research directed toward how best to mine it for energy, nutrients, metals, as well as for the recycled water content.