Treatment Technologies and Monitoring Tools to Implement Water Reuse

Scarcity of clean water is a serious problem confronting the large megacities and semiarid regions of the Americas. The sustainability of quality potable water is essential for the future economic development of the Americas and well-being of its citizens. To ensure the supply of water, there is a great need to recycle industrial and municipal wastewater as clean potable water. A multitude of technical challenges need to be addressed in reusing municipal wastewater. These range from disinfecting pathogens and removal of trace emerging contaminants, such as endocrine disrupting compounds to the treatment of excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous). Water reuse can be achieved by directly treating wastewater with intensive treatments (e.g., biological, advanced oxidation, membranes) or having environmental buffers to passively treat water with natural processes or a combination of the two approaches. The science and engineering of water reuse also requires knowledge on analytical chemistry, the social sciences and policy to achieve social acceptance, such as eliminating the “yuck” factor and knowledge of agriculture and irrigation for land application purposes. Likewise, knowledge on the toxicity of residual trace contaminants is a high priority in order to ensure that water is safe.

In addition to municipal water, large volumes of water are polluted by extractive industries (petroleum and hard rock mining) which are cornerstones of the economies of Latin American countries. Substantial quantities of water could potentially be reused after the proper pretreatment of water from the extractive industries. A case in point is the large volumes of acid rock drainage (ARD) generated at active and abandoned mines. Passive technologies are available that can neutralize and remove heavy metals from ARD. Likewise, there are efforts to reuse refinery water and produced water in oil fields.

The training of future professionals equipped to develop and implement water reuse requires a collaborative international approach. Instead of each country developing solutions to the problem of water reuse in silos, a strategic approach would be a concerted regional effort that pools expertise and training capacity together to create an international cadre of professionals that can function across the Americas to promote water reuse practices. A new generation of transdisciplinary professionals are needed who are not only experts in the science and engineering of water and the (agro) industrial sectors that use high volumes of water, but also who also are knowledgeable in social sciences, communication and language skills to be able to work with local communities and governments to achieve social acceptance of water reuse. Transdisciplinary refers to the integration of distinct academic disciplines, e.g., physical/chemical fields and behavioral sciences combined the collaboration of academics with non-academic members of the stakeholder community.

Workshop Objectives

The goal of the workshop is to develop a thematic cluster consisting of higher education institute (HEI) partners from Brazil and the USA working on the environmental science/engineering of water quality and reuse. The cluster will collaborate on research, graduate student training and implementation of water reuse technologies.  The HEI cluster will develop a coordinated curriculum to cultivate cadre of international water scientist and engineering professionals that can develop and implement water reuse technology and practices.  Likewise, the HEI cluster will foster international collaborative research that advances water reuse, water treatment and monitoring technologies.