While theoretically less energy is typically required to return wastewater to fit-for-purpose water compared to expanding withdrawals through, for example, seawater desalination, there are unique challenges in recycling wastewater. Two key examples of such challenges are (1) the presence of trace contaminants like pharmaceuticals and (2) the increased risk of fouling in treatment systems. Technologies exist today that can address these challenges, but at a high cost. What is desperately needed to revolutionize water reuse is efficient, effective, and economically viable technologies that can selectively remove targeted compounds and materials that can either passively or actively resist fouling.
Thank you for starting this discussion, @SethDarling! Could you point us to some examples of existing solutions?
If the community is aware of any early-stage innovations in this space, we’d also like to know!
Thank you @SethDarling for your valuable input about trace contaminants and system fouling as key barriers to current efforts.
I’m particularly interested in what you say here
What is currently stopping us from doing this? Is it lack of date around these targeted compounds?
Generally speaking, little effort has been made commercially to address this issue. There is an engineering solution in that components are simply chemically cleaned or replaced periodically when then become fouled. As we consider more water reuse/recycling, the water environment will become far more aggressively fouling in nature, so such engineering approaches will become cost prohibitive. New materials that resist fouling–or even that actively degrade foulants–will be necessary. For that, we need investment in the full innovation pipeline for materials research.
Thank you so much for this additional info @SethDarling! It’s very important for us to be thinking ahead of these challenges as they evolve.