Friday, January 10, 2014

Trends for 2014 and Beyond...

It's the turn of the year and the TV is full of "specials" recounting the events of 2013 - new births, famous people passing away, sports triumphs and tragedies, conflicts, other newsworthy events - and then there will be folks pondering what 2014 might hold for us all that's different from 2013. If we're honest, nobody can predict what 2014 will be like. Perhaps it will be a quiet and uneventful year, or perhaps there will be some major new conflict or natural disaster that will throw us all for a loop. Maybe aliens will contact us. OK, I'd better stop now as I'm stretching the speculation a little too far! Probably because I've watched one sci-fi movie too many.

I thought it would be interesting to ponder some possible trends in wastewater in North America for 2014. I'll likely be way off on some of these but hopefully one or two will hit the mark, so here goes with my predictions for 2014 and beyond!

1. Increased use of Envision for truly sustainable design

Released last year, the Envision evaluation scheme from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), has the potential to radically shift the way we look at wastewater treatment design. In the same way that LEED caught the imagination of the building industry, I can see this really taking off over the next few years. I might be a bit biased because I'm helping to keep track of the roll out of Envision within Black & Veatch, but I really do think it will take off and most folks who know anything about it seem to hold a similar opinion.

2. Nutrient Removal becomes the norm for everyone

A couple of years ago there was a push by an environmental group to have nutrient removal included as part of the definition for "secondary treatment." Within our industry there was a strong push back and it never got anywhere. At the time I remember thinking that the main reason it failed is that they were advocating for extremely low nutrient limits near the limit of technology (like 0.1 mg/L phosphorus and 3 mg/L nitrogen or something like that - I forget the exact numbers). If, however, they'd proposed a more reasonable set of limits for basic nutrient removal, say 2 mg/L of phosphorus and 15 mg/L nitrogen, then they may have had more traction within wastewater treatment professionals in general. In 2013, WEF and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) started discussions on a Nutrient Roadmap, which may start to pave the way for more folks doing nutrient removal and maybe one day everyone doing it? Until then, there are plenty of regulations that will push utilities into doing it anyway, so nutrient removal will become the norm rather than the exception.

3. Increased focus on EDCs,PPPs, ECs, MCs, AC/DCs (whatever you want to call them!)

When I started work in the wastewater industry back in the early 1990's, the new hot topic was endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC). Fast forward 20 years and the new hot topic is still EDCs, though they've added some other trace organic compounds to the list and the name keeps changing! (Micro-pollutants this week maybe?). But recent pilot trials at Swiss wastewater treatment plants to put in advanced equipment to remove these nasties makes me think the focus and action on these trace contaminants will only increase.

4. Life-Cycle Thinking comes of age

I've written on life cycle assessments (LCA) in a previous blog, so I probably shouldn't keep banging on about it, but I do think that we'll see more and more use of Life-cycle thinking in our business. In fact the Envision method I mentioned already advocates LCA for assessing potential environmental benefits.

5. More resources online

Where do I start? Wefcom, WaterWiki, Waterworld, Engineers Toolbox... there's so much information on the internet focused on water and wastewater, I hardly know where to start. Maybe that's a good topic for a future blog? But for sure we'll see more and more useful information online and in electronic format.

OK, so those are my predictions for 2014. What are your predictions for 2014? How about other parts of the world?


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