Over the past summer, the United States experienced its most extensive drought since 1956, with more than 50% of the country experiencing moderate or worse conditions. Repercussions have involved damaged crops, drinking water shortages, and fish kills, among others. The continued threat of droughts like this one has sounded the call for water conservation efforts across the country, especially from those who use it the most.
Electric utilities account for 49% of total water withdrawals in the United States—approximately 201 billion gallons per day, the highest of all U.S. water withdrawals. Power plants rely on water for essential functions, particularly cooling, and without a steady supply they will be unable to meet increasing demands for affordable, reliable electricity. As a result, experts have begun exploring the reuse of municipal wastewater, also known as reclaimed water, in electric utilities to safely meet the water needs of the power producing process while conserving freshwater for other uses.
Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, major technical, regulatory, communication, and public perception barriers make it difficult to launch new projects that incorporate reclaimed water into electric utilities. To make these projects work, municipal wastewater utilities and electric utilities must collaborate closely with one another and coordinate their efforts over long periods of time. That’s why the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) engaged Nexight Group to bring together experts who could help identify best practices and future directions for wastewater reuse efforts at power plants.
More than 20 experts from electric utilities, municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and research organizations participated in the Best Practices and Future Directions Workshop. Nexight’s Ross Brindle and Lindsay Pack facilitated a series of highly interactive discussions to identify the following:
- Key characteristics of successful municipal wastewater projects
- Barriers to successful municipal wastewater projects
- Next steps to overcome the barriers to success
Nexight also developed the Best Practices and Future Directions report, which outlines priority best practices and potential action plans for helping new projects launch. Recently published on asme.org and distributed at WEFTEC, the report aims to help municipal wastewater plants and electric utilities initiate new reclaimed water utilization projects and to guide the efforts of ASME and WEF as they strive to support such projects.
“The Best Practices and Future Directions Workshop was extremely successful in getting the key players of potential municipal wastewater reuse projects— the electric utilities and wastewater utilities—talking to one another,” said Dr. Michael Tinkleman, Director of the ASME Center for Research and Technology Development. “This effort was a critical first step in increasing the implementation of municipal wastewater reuse projects throughout the power sector, which will reduce the power sector’s freshwater usage.”