Armed With Emerging Technologies and Sustainability Goals, the Water and Wastewater Industry Is Tackling Emissions

Jan 26, 2022 9:00 AM ET

Water tends to be a marker of climate crisis, whether by drought or flooding. But in the United States, water will also play a role in climate mitigation, as the water and wastewater treatment systems we rely on day-to-day currently account for a significant portion of overall emissions.

But new technologies and sustainability considerations are emerging to change this reality by mitigating the currently astronomical energy consumption of water and wastewater treatment, say Black & Veatch’s Jim Schlaman and J.C. Alonzo in a recent article from Triple Pundit.

Water and wastewater utilities are getting serious about altering their emission contributions, with more and more implementing ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals and metrics into their operations. When these considerations are incorporated from the planning stage of projects, they tend to offer better lifecycle costs than traditional methods, explains Schlaman.

Developing technologies are also giving water and wastewater utilities an edge in sustainability. Black & Veatch is working on a project that is deploying genetic algorithms and computer optimization during the planning stage to evaluate environmental and performance trade-offs, balance costs and improve overall system resilience.

Deployment of microgrids is gaining popularity to increase resilience and decrease dependence on the main grid, while renewables like floating solar and biogas recovery are increasingly integrated into water systems. Newer technologies like in-pipe hydropower and microturbines are also on the rise.

But perhaps the most salient point in this movement is that the industry is prioritizing and investing in ESG initiatives.

“You used to have to hammer on people just to get them to listen to you about environmental issues,” Alonzo told Triple Pundit. “Water utilities are starting to understand that their responsibility for operating the business goes beyond moving water through the pipes.”