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In indirect potable reuse, highly treated wastewater is released into rivers, reservoirs or aquifers that are sources of drinking water. In one such case in the U.K., the Langford Recycling plant supplies up to 70% of the Chelmer River’s flow during droughts.

Wastewater recycling is a key element of plans to bring clean, accessible water to all

Wastewater reuse — or recycling — can provide a source of water for a variety of applications, even drinking. Because of this, it dovetails perfectly with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 (SDG 6), which calls for universal access to water and sanitation. But high-quality wastewater treatment is a must when it comes to ensuring public acceptance of reuse.

Some see water reuse as essential to SDG 6’s sanitation and wastewater treatment goals. Cecilia Tortajada of Singapore’s Institute of Water Policy said:

No government of any human settlement irrespective of its size, be it a megacity, mid-size city or large or small town, can provide clean water without concurrently considering sanitation and wastewater management. Clean water is not, and will never be possible, if wastewater is not collected, treated and disposed properly for the intended uses.

Water Sources Under Pressure

Progress on meeting the SDGs has been lagging. In the developing world, pressures on freshwater resources include economic development, burgeoning populations, urbanization, and extreme weather from climate change. Also, pollution is making universal access to water more difficult both in terms of quantity and quality.

With natural water sources under pressure, it’s not surprising that water reuse is getting a second look. It is in wide use for various nonpotable applications, but treating wastewater for reuse as drinking water, or potable reuse, has been a hard sell in some parts of the world. But now that drinking water crises are becoming more frequent worldwide, the social, environmental, and economic benefits of reuse, even potable reuse, have been winning out more and more.

Potable reuse is broken down into either direct or indirect potable reuse (DPR or IPR). IPR introduces highly treated wastewater effluent into natural drinking water sources like aquifers or reservoirs, while DPR sends the water directly to taps.

Water Reuse Around the World

There’s a wide range of support for and implementation of potable water reuse among the countries of the world. Here are some examples:

  • Singapore’s NEWater system was implemented in 2003 to relieve its dependence on water from Malaysia. Although the program targets 2060 for water self-sufficiency, reused water already meets 40% of Singapore’s needs.
  • The European Union encourages water efficiency, but its water reuse policy focuses on nonpotable agricultural irrigation. The decision to adopt potable reuse reverts to member states. Only two potable reuse projects exist in the region, the Langford Recycling Scheme in the United Kingdom and the Belgian Torrelle plant, both of them IPR. During dry periods, Langford supplies up to 70% of the Chelmer River’s flow during droughts, while Torrelle provided safe drinking water to approximately 60,000 people in 2012, and recharges the Saint-André dune aquifer to prevent saline intrusion.
  • Two of Australia’s three attempts at potable reuse, the Toowoomba and Western Corridor Recycled Water Projects, have been shut down due to lack of public and political support. Perth, however, retains a growing IPR aquifer recharge program.
  • Nationally, the United States has the most water reuse projects, with its applicable policies and regulations. And the Environmental Protection Agency’s new National Water Reuse Action Plan is expected to increase water reuse nationally. In 2017, 14 states had policies for IPR and three had policies for DPR, up dramatically from 2012. California is moving forward aggressively with IPR for groundwater recharge. Fluence’s MABR technology has been approved for reuse in California under the state’s strict Title 22 regulations.

Fluence’s MABR technology, which features very high nutrient removal, already is furthering SDG goals around the world, including an expansive project in Central China that treat effluent to the country’s Class 1A effluent standards.

Fluence has long been committed to the U.N. SDGs and has the technology and expertise to help you meet them. Contact Fluence to learn more about our sustainable solutions for converting sewage to effluent of any level of purity, all the way up to drinking water or even ultrapure water.

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