Exploring the Best Strategies for Sustainable Wastewater Management

The world depends on wastewater treatment facilities to sustain the environment and prevent the spread of disease. However, maintaining a clean water supply can have a large carbon footprint, contributing to climate change. The future of wastewater plants must include plans to incorporate sustainable methods.

The Necessity of Wastewater Treatment

Outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and cholera were common before wastewater treatment was standard in urban centers. Even today, communities with inadequate treatment facilities experience illness and death due to water-borne bacteria. In areas with growing populations, establishing wastewater treatment is critical in improving the quality of life.

These treatment facilities also help address impurities like heavy metals and other chemicals consumers introduce into the water stream. Without treatment, these pollutants will enter local water sources, disrupting the ecosystem.

Methods of Wastewater Treatment

Some water treatment methods have been around for decades. Modern techniques may result in cleaner water, but they also use more energy.

Physical Processes

Physical processes like filtration and sedimentation use water pressure or gravity to remove large impurities from the water stream. These techniques are energy-efficient to a point. However, more intensive filtration processes like reverse osmosis require additional energy to force water through membranes.

Chemical Processes

Water treatment plants use chemicals to adjust the pH of effluent. Compounds like hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite can disinfect water for a safe return to the water cycle.

Biological Processes

Bacteria and other organisms naturally break down organic material in wastewater. Activated sludge is a common aerobic process that removes impurities over time. Many wastewater plants are implementing anaerobic techniques that allow for harvesting methane as a biofuel.

Environmental Impacts of Wastewater Management

Incomplete wastewater management can have heavy environmental consequences. Plants send effluent into local water resources like waterways, ponds, and lakes. If the treatment does not remove chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus, algae blooms may develop, creating dead zones for aquatic life.

However, the most significant environmental impact comes from electricity usage. All wastewater plants require energy, especially when employing energy-hungry pumps to move water. Depending on the volume and techniques used, sewage treatment plants can contribute to a municipality’s carbon footprint.

Developing Sustainable Methods for Wastewater Management

Developing sustainable wastewater treatment facilities requires examining how they obtain energy and the efficiency with which they use it. Harnessing the byproducts of wastewater treatment is another way to lessen the overall impact.

Green Energy and Sustainable Water Treatment

Using gravity for all treatment methods is unfeasible to achieve the level of cleanliness necessary for producing safe effluent. Recognizing that plants and their pumps will need power, designers are looking for ways to reduce energy demand by employing green energy.

Sustainability means building solar farms on or around the wastewater plant in some locations. Municipalities often place their wastewater facilities on open land. Dedicating some of the land to energy production can make the plant self-sufficient.

In other cases, the plant uses treatment byproducts like methane and hydrogen to fuel its processes. While burning methane contributes to greenhouse gases, it is a cleaner energy source than coal.

Harvesting Nutrients

Using treatment byproducts is another way to lower the total energy costs of water treatment. When left in effluent, the nitrogen and phosphorus that cause algae blooms can serve as nutrients for the agricultural industry. Revenue from byproduct sales will also lower wastewater operating costs.

Water Recycling

Sustainability for water systems will involve recycling water in locations with a low supply. The plant must include more effective treatment measures if effluent flows to the public water supply.

Chemical Treatment

Researchers are learning how the timing of chemical processes can affect the efficiency of wastewater treatment. Pre-treating water to adjust its quality can make biological methods faster and more effective, increasing a plant’s capacity without expansion.

SCADA and Sustainability for the Water Industry

System control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology is another tool treatment plants can use to improve efficiency and support sustainability. In a SCADA system, sensors at several points provide real-time data about factors like water quality, pressure, and volume.

The system control portion of the system allows managers to program automated responses to changing conditions. The treatment plant can adapt immediately as the influent volume increases or impurity levels change. This precise, responsive approach to wastewater management will have a powerful impact on efficiency and energy use.

Supporting Sustainable Methods with Cloud-Based SCADA

Cloud-based SCADA represents the next generation of system control technology. Cloud storage empowers employees to access information on a handheld device anywhere. This flexibility is ideal for water facilities that cover a broad area.

At High Tide Technologies, we provide advanced, cloud-based SCADA solutions to clients in the municipal water collection, treatment, and distribution clients. Our systems can be part of a comprehensive strategy for sustainable wastewater treatment. To learn more about the benefits of cloud-based SCADA, contact High Tide Technologies today.