Valentine Environmental Engineers has been an advocate for water recycling technology for years and is at the forefront of grey water reuse and water reuse. They have designed and managed multiple projects over the past decade blazing a trail for others to join this ideal. “Preserving our fresh water supplies is important but eventually we will have to adjust our technology and how we view our water. Water engineers and water companies need to collaborate and understand the need to recycle water from tap to toilet back to tap again,” says Dr. Teresa Valentine, managing principal.
Many countries are already doing this in large quantities because of the short water supplies in their region such as: Australia, Singapore, and Israel.
- In Singapore where you can find the highest concentration of millionaires in the world, they still have a significant water shortage issue. Today, their NEWater initiative at wastewater reuse plants produces one-third of the country’s water demand by blending effluent with reservoir supplies and ultra-purifying this to serve as potable water.
- Israel is 60% desert, and as a result recycles 75% of the country’s sewage, performs desalination of sea water, uses software to detect leaks, and has computerized drip irrigation. The popular Medjool dates we buy in the US today were watered with recycled effluent.
- Australia is leading the way on developing strategies for public awareness and acceptance, and created a program, National Demonstration, Education and Engagement Program (NDEEP), that gathers research, best practices, and communication strategies for others to reference and utilize in their journey for water recycling. They won the 2014 WateReuse International Award from the WateReuse Association.
Whether water recycling is something you are doing today or plan to do in the future, the critical element for success is communication and education. The tools NDEEP developed are based on research findings around perceptions and beliefs of stakeholders regarding recycled water.
There are three key questions we need to ask ourselves and we need to consider for the future of water in our communities especially here in our own backyards in the Southwest.
- What is the big picture? Being transparent and thinking about the complete water scenario is critical to give our communities and our citizens the facts they need to determine what is best for them. NDEEP research shows that we cannot just communicate about water recycling, we need to help the public understand the entire urban water cycle, and how drinking water is produced, and primarily the risk in drought-stricken areas and the risk we face.
- What are others doing – what’s working, what’s not? It is our responsibility to learn from other best practices in our field and use those to improve our master plans and design philosophies.
Another tool NDEEP created was a Global Connections Map showing information featuring expert and citizen commentary about potable water recycling schemes all over the world – including more than 50 videos featuring interviews with key personnel from the plant engineer and regulators of a particular scheme, to local politicians and citizens.
- How can we work together? We understand the importance of collaborating with municipalities, private companies, the public, other engineers, other planners, and the list goes on. When all constituents are brought together to create a plan, it works – from operators in a plant to community leaders.
Water recycling is not new to our field but how we evolve it and talk about it can change how it is perceived and how we develop communities. Water preservation is Valentine’s sole purpose, and a future of pure water is our vision.
One example of the impact water recycling can have is Valentine’s water recycling projects with Corrections Corporation of America. They utilize laundry water recycling which reduced water consumption by 80-90%, and shower water recycling for toilet flushing which reduced potable water demand by over 70%. See the complete case study.