Whether you are a city manager, a developer, a curious environmentalist or anyone else concerned about making the wastewater systems more sustainable, you may be wondering about new developments in the field. All over the world, everyone from students to activists to wastewater treatment managers are working on new ways to make the treatment of wastewater faster, more environmentally friendly and more efficient. Here are a few of the new developments currently being explored, used and developed:
1. Algae-based wastewater treatment
Cleaning wastewater in a sustainable way involves a two-pronged approach: cutting down on power usage and finding natural ways to clean the water more quickly. Some wastewater sites find algae to be the most effective way to meet both of these needs.
Essentially, after the waste solids are removed from the water, it can be fed into an area full of algae. The algae consumes the nitrogen in the waste water so it doesn't add excess nitrogen to the surrounding land or groundwater. The algae also – through its natural photosynthesis process – inhales carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.
In addition to cleaning water, the algae can be used to create power for the rest of the wastewater treatment facility. As an final bonus, engaging in waste water treatment strategies like these help to reclaim natural watershed areas.
2. Floodplain forests
Another watershed area currently being explored by people who are interested in making waste water treatment more sustainable are floodplain forests. Floodplain forests are the parts of forests that sit along the banks of rivers or the shores of oceans. These areas have naturally evolved to treat dirty flood water, and as a result, they are perfect for integrating into waste water treatment strategies. Forests and especially floodplain forests have natural cleansing properties. For example, their vegetation absorbs pollutants and soaks up sediment-filled floodwater.
In addition to helping the waste water industry, reclaiming areas like this and bringing them closer to their natural state also supports the flora and fauna of the area. In places where these areas have been sustained, they can be put to use almost immediately. In places where these areas have been turned into farmland, the farmland needs to be left fallow so the land can return to its natural state.
3. Agricultural waste and bio-charcoal filtration
Some people are considering reclaiming farmland to tap into the natural cleansing properties of the unused land, but others are taking about using farms in different ways. Inspired by his travels through Ethiopia, one young student has just come up with a way to convert agricultural waste into a natural charcoal that can clean water.
This approach and similar ones take an existing waste product and put it to positive use. These approaches also work to clean the waste water more quickly. Speeding up the water recycling process effectively boosts the amount of available fresh water.
4. Shredded plastic bottles
However, agricultural waste isn't the only type of waste that can be recycled to clean water. In Nairobi, residents and eco-minded volunteers are putting another type of waste to use – old plastic bottles. Essentially, the water bottles are shredded, and their pieces placed in bags such as the type used to hold onions.
Dirty wastewater can be run through the bags of shredded water bottles. The high surface area of the shredded plastic attracts microbes and pollutants from the water, and as a result, the water gets clean quickly and efficiently.
5. Microbial assessment
Whether you are cleaning your waste water with plastic bottles or charcoal made of agricultural waste, you need a way to tell if it is truly safe for human consumption. So that they can safely recycle treated water back into use quickly without compromising the health of anybody, scientists are working on new ways to assess the microbial material in the water.
Once these methods are perfected and integrated, they may result in a much more efficient and sustainable treatment process.