When we are talking about sustainable water infrastructure, we need to differentiate it from the green movement. These are not mutually exclusive, mind you, but it is a much broader term. What sustainability means for water and wastewater utilities is building a reliable and consistent infrastructure.
This infrastructure can be managed, maintained, and if need be upgraded. All of this should be done without damaging or destroying the environment or hitting the user’s wallet too hard.
Water-related issues are among the biggest challenges many countries and their governments face. There are many implications to it like health, economy, and environmental concerns.
The main takeaway from this mode of thinking is the abandonment of a notion that looks at wastewater treatment as a pure removal process. In the modern world of recycling, nothing should be allowed to go to waste and everything can be utilized in one form or the other.
Wastewater can be turned into a resource recovery operation. We can take phosphorus as an example. It is a vital ingredient in fertilizers but is also a pollutant in wastewater. We can see a connection here. It is also a non-renewable resource.
The other way of extracting it is from the sea. We can see how much more feasible it would be to utilize the existing infrastructure and extract it from there much more efficiently. It is possible to recover phosphorus in a way that does not impact the environment but can also be done at a profit. These long-term benefits make such opportunities very appealing.
It is not all that easy, though as it requires a large amount of initial capital investment. This can prove to be hard to sell to organizations with a limited budget. Speaking of which, utilities have to meet the financial and social expectations as well. It is not a single bottom line, but a multiple on, as there are many factors to consider.
Governance is another one. Not only is the infrastructure a considerable task to initially implement, but it also needs to be managed in the long term. The entire project which includes support on our part needs to be financially viable to the end. Thankfully, technology has advanced rapidly in the last few decades.
The points relevant to us are innovations in reducing energy consumption, footprint, and financial savings overall. All of these and many more, make these kinds of projects much more viable.
The technology itself is not cheap and like most things, it does require investing in. And we are not talking just about our finances as there is also a cultural aspect to it. In the past, it has never been the job of the wastewater industry to actually produce anything.
The job was to get rid of things. It is a complete shift in paradigm, one that requires getting used to. To overcome these hurdles one at a time, there are simple and small steps to implement first. We can always start with smart water pumps that automatically adapt the power they use.
These also provide us with Real-time feedback about the flow of water and their own performance or maintenance needs. This information is invaluable as it gives us insight on how to act in the future.
The truth is that it usually takes an unordinary event like a crisis or a restrictive new regulation to set the gears in motion. It is always better to be prepared, a pound of cure is worth an ounce of prevention. Proactive action can and will always prove to be financially beneficial.
Transforming traditional treatment facilities into automated ones with new technologies is no easy task. Monitoring equipment, analytic software, and much more also require the staff to be updated with the knowledge and adequate certificate and licenses in order to operate it.
Training is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced, advanced technology projects. That should never be the case, as it is critical to success and long-term feasibility. Employees need to be confident in their abilities to operate the new equipment, otherwise, they will not be able to.
The human side needs investing in too. These projects can seem to be quite demanding and there are organizations that deal with these professionally like the Jonishan Civil Contracting.
We can start by setting goals that are constructed around sustainability. From that point on, we can inform ourselves as much as we can on the subject. Knowledge and experience are our biggest allies. Reading industry journals in other fields as well as a good place to start.
We need to see what people are doing in other industries and if we can apply it to our own. Pilot projects can be used to demonstrate competency on initially small scales.
From there, we can gradually increase the scope and perception of our organization. In time we can have a business portfolio that serves everyone’s financial, social and environmental needs.
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