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Reuse Innovation Program: Innovation is at our Core

Authors: Eva Steinle-Darling, PhD, PE; Andrew Salveson, PE; Rosa Yu, PE

Currents: Volume 4, 2022

The recent development of water reuse as an intentional, engineered practice is built on decades of innovation that persist well into our projects today. Carollo is at the forefront of water reuse innovation, from concept to realization, as illustrated by our implementation of potable reuse projects across the entire US and more recently globally.

While the field has matured significantly over the last decade, globally operating projects can be counted on several hands; potable reuse is still inherently an innovative practice and will be for some time. Many of our client’s projects reflect this innovation, from pilot and demonstration testing to the exploration of alternative treatment approaches and better sensing, monitoring, and data management solutions. Our innovation also takes us far afield, with clients around the world requesting our expertise as they develop innovative approaches to potable reuse in their geographies (Japan, Israel, Australia)!

Alternative Advanced Treatment Approaches: Not Just Ozone/BAC!

For approaches to advanced treatment for potable reuse, past conventional wisdom (and some regulations) dictated that an approach built around reverse osmosis (RO) was the only defensible path. Our focus has shifted significantly to a wider range of treatment processes and combinations over the last few years. Carollo has been a leading force behind the development of a carbon-based advanced treatment (CBAT) alternative approach that relies much more heavily on our industry’s wisdom and experience in traditional drinking water treatment processes, such as ozone and biofiltration. Our team, in partnership with many utility and academic partners, has developed no less than seven CBAT pilot or demonstration facilities for direct potable reuse (DPR) in four states over the last five years, with more to come.

One of Carollo’s CBAT demonstration projects, the City of South Jordan’s Pure SoJo DPR project encapsulates the progress we have made in potable reuse: It’s the first DPR project in the state of Utah, forms the basis of that state’s regulatory approach to DPR, and has garnered the attention of Utah Senator Mitt Romney. During his visit in October 2022, he noted, “This is the kind of solution that could be adopted around the State.”

Increasingly, these various “firsts” have also garnered attention—even among those for whom water is not a day-to-day preoccupation. And we’re not resting on our laurels: a new collaboration with our drinking water treatment experts has developed a new treatment concept, affectionately called XBAT, that provides a potential solution to the Achilles Heel of both RO-based treatment and CBAT: salinity management. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting concept!

Systems-Level Thinking Requires Better Sensing, Monitoring, and Data Management Capabilities

In our previous column (Volume 2 2019), we explored system-level thinking with projects like The Water Research Foundation (WRF) Project #4833, which examines the interplay between wastewater treatment and advanced treatment for potable reuse holistically as one integrated treatment system. With that project now nearing completion, some of the biggest take-aways are that without other drivers it is almost always most cost-effective to address treatment “gaps” at the advanced treatment level. But, more importantly, the project clearly illustrates that in order to advance our capacity for analysis and optimization, we need better sensing, monitoring, and data management tools.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carollo has embarked on a new comprehensive focus on gathering better data. This doesn’t start with machine learning (ML) algorithms or “digital twins,” but with the fundamentals. Asking questions like: What should we measure? Can we develop better sensors? How do we move data around efficiently and securely? Once those questions are answered, and good defensible datasets are available, the application of ML for analysis or system control applications is comparatively straightforward and opens up a whole new realm of opportunity for both individual process and system-wide optimization.

A little bit of levity is one important ingredient in a successful public outreach approach. Lest you think we take ourselves too seriously, our outreach efforts connect with the community at a more lighthearted level, using purified water to brew beer and make gelato — can you think of more good things to make with purified recycled water?

Read more of this issue of Currents: Currents: Volume 4, 2022