New WERF Research Challenges Embrace New View of Wastewater

Six Topics Identified for Future Research

WERF has begun work on six research focus areas. These six areas are additions to our current research portfolio. They reflect the beginning of a new role for wastewater treatment plans — one that takes us beyond the removal of nutrients and BOD for ecosystem protection to that of beneficial "interceptors" for society. This means embracing a new view of wastewater itself: not as a waste, but as a resource.

Here are links to a description of each of the research areas:

Energy Production and Efficiency

Goal: Energy self sufficiency for wastewater treatment plants. This would be pursued as two parallel energy-related research efforts. One for reduction in plant energy demand through lower-energy alternatives to secondary treatment, i.e., activated sludge. The second research effort will examine the capture of energy from wastewater to support plant operations, and ultimately the financial benefits from its export.

The research builds on the work done under the soon-to-be-completed Operations Optimization Challenge, for which the goal was to achieve 20 percent improvement in cost and/or energy consumption. Get the related fact sheet.

Contact: Lauren Fillmore, WERF Program Director 

Nutrient Recovery

Goal: Support the transition from a treatment-based industry to a resource recovery and reclamation industry that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Although nutrients will be our first target, eventually all materials in wastewater that can be commoditized will be. The result will be far less release of residuals to the environment. Get the related report.

Contact: Amit Pramanik, WERF Senior Program Director  

Linking Contaminant Sources to Receiving Water Impacts

Goal: Enable the wastewater and stormwater industry to fully participate in the development and implementation of water-quality based discharge standards for contaminants (e.g., nutrients, pathogens, chemicals) by providing the industry with methods to confirm linkages between receiving water quality, ecological impacts, wastewater and stormwater discharges, and other sources.

Contact: Lola Olabode, WERF Program Director  

Sensor Integration and Guidance

Goal: Identify, evaluate, and communicate the industry’s needs for online sensors and methods that can help utilities minimize compliance violations and maintain or increase the efficiency of collection and treatment operations. The research will begin with a collaborative WERF-led effort "Survey of Experiences with Sensors," with the Global Water Research Coalition. Get the [[Sensor_Integration_a|related report]].

Contact: Amit Pramanik, WERF Senior Program Director 

Trace Organics in Biosolids

Goal: Provide the data to (1) inform the risk assessment of trace organic chemicals in biosolids that are being land applied and (2) support risk management decisions that are being made by wastewater utilities, land appliers, and chemical manufacturers. This issue is on a relatively urgent time frame as the occurrence data have been published and there remains the outstanding issue of determining exposure and risks. WERF will conduct a first-step collaborative research project to identify, gather and summarize available but unpublished data that will be used to help establish the scope of the research program needed to reach the goal. Get the related report.

Contact: Lola Olabode, WERF Program Director  

Sustainable Integrated Water Management

Goal: Facilitate change by acting as a catalyst and providing the technical support for a paradigm shift in water management for cities and towns toward sustainable systems that integrate wastewater, stormwater, drinking water and source water, as well as other infrastructure (e.g., energy, transportation, parks, etc.). The Water Research Foundation and the WateReuse Foundation have agreed to work with WERF in this effort. WERF will develop a broader network/partnership, and refine the approach as necessary. Get the related report.

Contact: Jeff Moeller, WERF Senior Program Director  

Updated: September 8, 2011