Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT November 2019

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 14 of 47

www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | XXXX 20XX | 15 In Focus G lobal demand for energy and water is expected to increase by 40 per cent and 50 per cent respectively by 2030, according to the United Nations. As this demand soars, optimising wastewater management processes could unlock solu- tions to some of society's biggest sustain- ability challenges, from food production to renewable energy. In January 2018, the UK government published its 25 Year Environment Plan which sets out plans to improve the environment within a generation. As part of this ambitious strategy to improve the UK's air and water quality, a key target is minimising waste and championing the reuse of materials to reduce the impact on the environment. Work is already underway as the government aims to reach zero avoidable waste by 2050 – and water companies must play a vital role in reducing waste and delivering a sustainable water system for the future. UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is currently leading the development of the water research agenda by defining a strategic research programme to address the key sustainability issues facing the industry. From a growing population and changing climate, to extensive market re- form and evolving customer expectations, the challenges for the water industry are myriad and complex. To ensure the industry's response to these key issues is informed by compre- hensive research, UKWIR has developed "12 Big Questions" that seek to shape the blueprint for a more sustainable future. One big question is how the industry can maximise recovery of useful resources and achieve zero waste by 2050. Recover- ing valuable resources from water and wastewater is becoming particularly crucial as the industry recognises that the traditional linear economic model of "take, make, use throw" is simply unsus- tainable. "Recovery from wastewater is becom- ing increasingly important because we need to move from a linear to a circular economy in a world of depleted resourc- es," explains Alison Fergusson, associ- ate director at Ofwat. "For example, the use of materials like phosphorus which is essential for food production and yet our source for it is a finite and limited mineral." Traditional wastewater treatment methods call for the removal of phospho- rus, resulting in increased use of chemi- cals like iron salts. But the finite nature of phosphorous, for example, makes a com- pelling case for resource recovery, instead of removing it and treating it as waste. Peter Vale, technical innovation lead in Severn Trent's environmental R&D team, agrees that the water industry can play an important role in an emerging circular economy (re-use, remanufacture, repair, recycle) where there is more focus on recovery and regeneration. "We receive huge amounts of 'waste' water that is full of potentially valuable materials that can be recovered and regenerated, for example nutrients, cellulose, bio-plastics and perhaps in the future higher value materials such as proteins and enzymes," he says. "We can potentially use some of these materials ourselves or sell them on to be made into value-added products." According to Vale, Severn Trent has advanced plans to be at the forefront of the emerging circular economy through recovering materials, energy and clean water from the wastewater it treats. "By reducing the amount of resources we need to effectively treat sewage, we can also keep customers' bills low," he adds. Key challenges While the benefits of wastewater recovery are clear, the route forward is a challeng- ing prospect. "The key challenge facing the water industry is getting the right balance between investment, implemen- tation of changes on complex infrastruc- www.wwtonline.co.uk | WWT | NOVEMBER 2019 | 15 Wastewater: Seizing the opportunity With sustainability high on the water industry's agenda, maximising resource recovery from wastewater is becoming increasingly important. As part of our Utility of the Future campaign, we look at the challenges and innovations that could impact the industry as it harnesses the potential value of wastewater By Nadine Buddoo

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