Last week the WaterNow Alliance team traveled to Phoenix to kick off the Arizona Water Prize winning project with the Southwest Water Campus, WateReuse, and the Arizona Community Foundation. To recap: the winning team put together a proposal for a statewide direct potable reuse (DPR) beer challenge. The Water Campus is building a mobile potable reuse facility (think semi-truck fully loaded with high tech purification technology) that will travel throughout Arizona connecting wastewater treatment facilities with local brewers to make beer with highly treated effluent. The project objective is to encourage discussions that will improve public confidence in proven and existing treatment technologies.
Relying primarily on groundwater and imported water from the Central Arizona Project, Arizona leaders have long recognized their need to develop sustainable, local water resources. As early as 1926, Arizona began using treated wastewater at the Grand Canyon Village. Sixty percent of all wastewater treatment plants in Arizona currently distribute treated wastewater for reuse. The Phoenix area already reuses more than 80% of effluent received for non-potable uses, such as landscape and agricultural irrigation, groundwater recharge, cooling operations for industrial users.
So, while Arizonans have long been reusing their water in a variety of ways, the direct reuse still has a “yuck” factor associated with it. By incorporating beer, and bringing the technology out in to the public more broadly – the SW Water Campus is hoping to increase public confidence in DPR technologies.
Public perceptions and acceptance of recycled wastewater can be a barrier to the successful implementation of reuse projects. What many people do not consider is that all water is recycled through de facto, or unplanned, reuse. De facto reuse occurs when a wastewater treatment plant discharges to a river upstream of a drinking water treatment facility. Throughout the US, drinking water supplies downstream of a wastewater treatment plant contain an average of 1% treated wastewater. By incorporating beer, and bringing the technology out in to the public more broadly – the SW Water Campus is hoping to increase public confidence in reuse projects and DPR technologies.
The Water Campus’s “Pure Water Brew Challenge” also comes at a critical time as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has opened the regulatory review process to update existing reuse regulations, which may include criteria for DPR in future revisions. The mobile treatment facility has the opportunity to influence ADEQs decision making process by demonstrating performance based standards for ensuring protection of public health while simultaneously gaining public support. Allowing DPR in Arizona would provide communities access to untapped resources, especially in smaller rural areas that are most vulnerable due to limited water supply resilience. Additionally, potable reuse allows cities to take advantage of existing infrastructure, such as water distribution systems, rather than investing in the costly installation and maintenance of a dual plumbed system (i.e. purple pipe).
I joined the WaterNow team last month and can’t wait to work closely with the SW Water Campus and look forward to sampling all the beers myself. Cheers!
Danielle is WaterNow Alliance’s Water Resource Specialist.