This question is at the heart of World Water Day, and at Fluence, the answer lies in preserving this vital resource through reuse
World Water Day is about celebrating what water means to people and how we should value and protect this vital resource, which is central to livelihoods, culture, health, and the environment. At Fluence, water is everything, and in this age of water stress, we’re doing everything we can to help communities and businesses make the most of every drop.
What we need is a new water source. Luckily, that source already exists. Whether you call it water recycling, water reclamation, or water reuse, it has the power to transform wastewater into a valuable resource.
As we celebrate World Water Day, let’s remember that water doesn’t cease to exist simply because we’ve used it once. A second time around can mean the difference between water scarcity and water security.
Making Water Reuse a Reality
In 2018, Global Water Intelligence Publisher Christopher Gasson wrote that countries around the world were beginning to understand the importance of water reuse, but that technology was lagging behind need:
Wastewater can be treated very cheaply. It is about technologies that help change the paradigm. Specifically, we need decentralised systems that reduce the need for investment in collection networks, real-time water quality monitoring systems which give the public confidence in direct potable reuse, and waste-to-energy systems that ensure that the whole treatment process is energy-positive.
In just a few years, the technical outlook has changed, ushering in a world of new possibilities. For example, Fluence’s modular Aspiral™ wastewater treatment plants efficiently produce water that can be reused for irrigation and other nonpotable applications. Without additional treatment, the membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) technology in Aspiral™ produces effluent that meets strict guidelines for reuse, including California’s Title 22 and China’s Class 1A standards.
As Gasson predicted, we are seeing a shift from centralized to decentralized systems. Instead of wasting time and money on extensive pipe networks, more people are becoming interested in compact plants that treat and reuse water on-site. This results in manageable CAPEX and OPEX, and provides a local source of recycled water.
The uses for recycled wastewater don’t end at irrigation. It can be used for domestic applications like toilet flushing and pavement washing, industrial applications like dust control and process water, and with further treatment, even as blowdown water in power generation.
Decentralization also has other benefits, such as resiliency: If one unit is impaired, the rest remain 100% functional, and when needs change, the units can be easily relocated.
That’s the logic behind Fluence’s Aspiral™ plants, which are engineered in quick-to-deploy shipping containers and require little energy, making them ideal for decentralization. By virtue of their modular design, Aspiral™ plants bring water reuse where it’s needed and can be easily scaled up to handle greater capacity.
Understanding Water Reuse
In some places, particularly the United States, the public has been slow to embrace municipal wastewater reuse projects due to the so-called “ick factor.” Yet with education and a foundation of trust, water reuse has proven itself time and time again, ultimately converting skeptics.
In economic terms, reluctance to invest in reuse may be overcome by studies, including ones in Puglia, Italy and Spain’s Valencia region, that show reuse has generally been assessed unfairly by overly narrow cost-benefit analyses. When external benefits are considered — for instance, a restored beach that can begin to attract tourism — reuse can present a “win-win situation where significant synergies can be achieved among the urban and agricultural sectors, and the environment.”
Clearly, with modern, nexus-oriented thinking — a broader approach that considers water, energy, and food as integral elements of economic security — the benefits outweigh the cost.
This World Water Day, Fluence is proud to join the growing consensus of voices urging the world to remember that water doesn’t have to be wasted after one use.