Wastewater management is essential for the human race to continue. Good water quality plays a crucial role in the improvement of social development, economic expansion, and human health. However, the global population is rising at an exponential rate. There have also been massive amounts of damage to the natural environments around the world. As a consequence, it’s becoming harder to ensure that safe water is made available to everyone. It is well known that the key to tackle this crisis is to focus on two strategies: reduce pollution and enhance the infrastructure of wastewater management.
The foundation of a circular and sustainable economy demands a greater emphasis on valuing wastewater—the potential it carries has been greatly overlooked. It’s a major shift from the traditional approach that relies on disposing of wastewater. The benefits of an improved wastewater infrastructure are not limited to greater water generation; it holds enough promise to protect our ecosystems as well as offer nutrients, energy, and a wide range of recoverable materials.
Considering the Wastewater Challenges
It’s imperative that the relevant authorities manage water carefully throughout its lifecycle. This includes abstracting freshwater and processing it for the pre-treatment stage. It then goes through different of stages, including distribution, collection, use, and post-treatment. Authorities also have to handle the consumption of treated wastewater and its return to the environment. During this stage, it is abstracted again to restart the entire cycle.
Some worrying trends are raising concerns regarding wastewater management. A large number of people are moving from rural areas to urban centers. Modern healthcare advancements have increased birth rates, extended the average human age, and reduced death rates. It took humanity 200,000 years to cross the one-billion population mark, but modern science increased the global population to seven billion in the next two centuries. In addition, the UN predicts that the global population would surpass 10 billion in 2056. These factors, along with economic development, have contributed mainly to the increase in wastewater, which in turn has caused a great deal of pollution load to the global environment and climate changes all over the world.
The availability of safe and abundant water supplies rests heavily on the overall plan regarding wastewater management. Authorities aren’t passing the sewage through adequate treatment. It is intermixed with industrial discharge and agricultural runoff. Therefore, water quality is degraded and water resources aren’t the same anymore; they are highly contaminated.
Studies suggest that 80% of wastewater that isn’t reused or treated flows back into the ecosystem. This means that around 1.8 billion people drink water that was impure due to the presence of feces. They face the risk of getting polio, typhoid, dysentery, and cholera. Rather than being discarded, wastewater management can be turned into a useful asset by addressing the burgeoning water demands in the biggest urban centers of the world. Moreover, this water can support sustainable agriculture and improve industrial development and energy production.
Poor Wastewater Management in Cities
Cities and towns often are well-known for discharging wastewater management in low-income areas without adequate treatment. They let a vast portion of this water get released into the closest water drain or informal drainage channel. Additionally, multiple sources release liquid waste into the wastewater management system. These include residential areas releasing household effluent and hospitals discard discarded medical waste. There are also many industries, such as small-scale motor garages and mining that dump toxic chemicals.
The wastewater dilemma does not just extend to only those areas that lack treatment facilities. Even cities that collect and treat wastewater may boast a system that is inefficient in treating wastewater. However, it must be noted that not all water requires treatment. For instance, if the municipal authority uses water to clean streets or irrigate green spaces, it doesn’t have to be treated. When wastewater is treated such that it can reach a certain water quality standard for practical use, cost recovery is increased.
Overview of Wastewater for Industrial Use
Environmental and societal circles have called out the industry to set better policies and standards for wastewater management. These demands mainly revolve around curbing down the generation of wastewater and treating it effectively before dumping it.
Today, governments and industries have begun to view wastewater as a resource with a wide range of financial and economic applications, especially when it is recycled after adequate treatment.
Industrial symbiosis can be used to use wastewater for different businesses or even for the business itself. Industries utilize 22% of global water. Most water consumption occurs in North America and Europe, where industries are responsible for using 50% of the water. Meanwhile, developing countries use only 4-12% of water.
For the next two decades, experts predict that the rapidly industrializing countries are expected to increase water use by the factor of at least five.
For businesses that are looking to make use of wastewater, there are a few ideas. For example, they can:
- Utilize process water for heating or cooling.
- Use rainwater from concrete roof collection for vehicle washing.
- Make use of concrete aprons for irrigation or toilet washing.
Wastewater in Agriculture
The demand for greater yields has led to the increased usage of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in small and industrial farming. Therefore, the agricultural industry has also been contributing to environmental pollution.
In developing countries, wastewater is not treated correctly for agricultural use, polluting both surface water and groundwater. A better form of wastewater management can be beneficial for improving the workers’ health and limiting the risks of pathogen exposure. Lately, farmers are trying to identify non-traditional water resources. This search has led them to wastewater, due to the depletion of conventional water resources as well as the high nutrients in wastewater. When wastewater is treated and utilized properly, it can end up as a priceless source of nutrients and water. It can improve food and water security and promote better livelihoods.
Benjamin is a technology enthusiast. He formerly consulted and handled communications for multiple tech startups. Now he works with the Xtrapoint Digital Network as a full-time journalist and is given the freedom to explore finance, history, and the arts.