Over the past several decades there have been huge increases in water scarcity levels and of water demand in cities with growing populations. These have led to the introduction of water reuse projects for potable use to help boost the supply of drinking water throughout the United States. At the same time issues surrounding water reuse have surfaced in the popular press, focusing primarily on the public acceptance of reusing water for potable purposes and the lack of national regulation for water reuse.
In a recent interview given to Water Online Radio, Guy Carpenter - the president of the Water Reuse Association - stated that “Water reuse operates within the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. There is no national regulation for water reuse, so each state comes up with its own ways to reuse wastewater. They reuse as they see fit within the context of their other water quality regulations as well as within the context of their water rights regulations. The Water Reuse Association is trying to focus on providing advocacy for regulations and laws to support funding, as well as public acceptance of water reuse.”
According to Carpenter, the Water Reuse Association is trying to promote opportunities and increase funding to make water reuse a reliable and sustainable source of water supply. The Water Resource Development Act that the Senate recently approved was a huge step in the right direction, because it provides funding to the different states through a variety of mechanisms to implement solutions that make sense for each state at a local level. Congress has recognized that there is huge diversity in the United States regarding the need for water reuse that varies from region to region, and is allowing those regions to choose how best the money is spent. The bill is currently on the docket for House approval.
Carpenter has said that The Water Reuse Association is spending a lot of money on understanding the social science of personal acceptance of recycled water. They are conducting research projects to help with all matters relating to the social sciences and to public acceptance, and projects that also make sure that the pathogens in wastewater do not become a problem in drinking water sources. Recycled water is immediately available to most entities since people are flushing their toilets, taking showers and washing dishes etc. There are a number of ways to deploy that water. It can be put through a purple pipe system or put into a reservoir that could be used as an augmentation supply for drinking water, or with treatment technology it can be taken all the way to potable reuse right from the wastewater treatment plant. But when you start looking at the costs associated with each one of those, the process becomes expensive. For example, non-potable reuse with purple pipes that requires putting 30 miles worth of purple pipe into existing roadways is a costly way of treating water. But if this water could be put right into your water treatment plant and was proved to be high-quality, then that's a lot less expensive.
There is a remarkable change in the public perception of water reuse according to Carpenter. However, there are some people out there that still say we shouldn't use recycled water on golf courses or on school grounds. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness of water quality and treatment. This shows some work still has to be done regarding educating policymakers and getting involved with general public demonstration projects. Despite all this, the association has helped a lot in proving the safety and efficacy of water reuse.
With the recent consolidation of the Water Reuse Association and the Water Environment Research Foundation, a much larger pool of research is available to use from 200 million dollars’ worth of research- compared to the six or seven million dollars a year that was the case before the consolidation. With a much bigger pool of resources, researchers and industry, the association is doing a better job of integrating stormwater, reclaimed water and wastewater together.