Q&A: Peter Nicol, CH2M global market director, on Brazil’s reuse policy

Peter Nicol, global market director for CH2M, outlines how the firm is helping to develop Brazil’s action plan for a national water reuse policy

Q. What is your current activity in Latin America?

A. “CH2M is active in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.

“In Brazil, we are working on a reuse project for the Ministry of Cities and its partners, including the National Water Agency. The project is financed by the World Bank’s Interáguas programme, and is looking at developing an action plan for a national water reuse policy. We have been analysing the potential of water reuse in Brazil, highlighting the difficulties and implementation opportunities, recommending water quality standards, and proposing possible financing models.

“Extreme drought conditions led to a serious water crisis in the State of São Paulo in 2014 and the country is generally facing increased water supply challenges in its most populous states. This is prompting Brazil to seek an integrated water resources management approach to meet current and future water demands, and to prepare for future droughts.

“As part of the project, CH2M has been implementing a five-pronged approach promoting social involvement and acceptance through a large-scale stakeholder process; demonstrating financial and economic sustainability of reuse in various local contexts; illustrating the benefits of reuse from an environmental perspective; proposing a policy integrated with existing water and wastewater policies; and involving an Independent International Advisory Panel to review the overall sustainability of the proposed policy. The project is expected to be complete by December 2017.”

Q. What is your record globally in desalination and reuse?

A. CH2M has worked on landmark water reuse and desalination projects all over the world, and our involvement in water reuse spans across its numerous applications, including non-potable reuse for landscape and agricultural irrigation and industrial use, to potable reuse, including groundwater recharge, surface water augmentation, and extensive research into direct potable reuse. We have an active and growing presence in both Brazil and Argentina.

Q. What are your areas of expertise in desal and reuse?

A. “CH2M has long recognized that we all as a global community cannot afford to use water once and dispose of it. Fresh water sources are precious and growing scarcer. Potable water reuse is the logical solution and CH2M is at the forefront of removing the technical and public acceptance hurdles to implementing these projects.

“More than 50 years ago we designed and operated the first, full scale advanced wastewater treatment facility in the United States, located in South Lake Tahoe. Since then, our water reuse projects have ranged in size from demonstration projects to full scale operational facilities, including Upper Occoquan Service Authority (UOSA) Millard H. Robbins Jr. Regional Water Reclamation Plant, one of the world’s first and largest potable reuse plants. The plant, which first took shape in the 1970s, is often cited as a milestone project for advanced water reclamation and beneficial potable reuse.

“Our designs for the Denver Potable Reuse Demonstration Plant, and Singapore NEWater projects, are milestones in advancing potable water recycling technology, and health effects testing.

“In desalination, we rank first for international water treatment and desalination, and second for water treatment and desalination, according to US industry newspaper Engineering News Record. The desalination team is focused on providing a range of cost-effective and sustainable solutions in water resource augmentation; water quality improvement and remediation (salinity and contaminant reduction) for impaired waters, such as brackish ground and surface waters, seawater and hypersaline groundwater, and industrial and domestic wastewaters; and brine and concentrate management. We develop these solutions for both the municipal and industrial sectors.”

Q. What are your expectations for growth in desalination and water reuse globally, and in Latin America?

A. “We see significant opportunities for growth in desalination and water reuse in Latin America, and globally, as the world’s demand for fresh water exceeds available supplies, especially in high growth and urban areas. Additionally, we are seeing growing demand for high quality/ high purity water from a variety of industries. Changing weather patterns and the increased number of droughts are also driving opportunities to augment water supplies through desalination and water reuse projects.

“Regions where high levels of municipal and industrial groundwater use have depleted local groundwater resources are ripe with opportunities, too.”