What is a WaterHub®? Do they all use the same process?
The WaterHub is a decentralized, campus-scale water recycling system, which utilizes adaptive ecology to treat wastewater. Essential to a resilient community, The WaterHub system is custom designed to reclaim waste, and thus conserve, clean freshwater by providing a redundant source for non-potable applications. The name “WaterHub” is derived from the system becoming the nucleus of sustainable water management in a given campus or community. The WaterHub can utilize multiple different treatment technologies to deliver the look and feel, water quality, energy profile and footprint required at each individual site.
What is a reciprocating wetland?
Pioneered by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Reciprocating Wetlands consist of pairs of adjacent bio-cells that contain plants and rock media. Utilizing anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic environments—adjacent cells are alternately drained and filled with wastewater on a recurrent basis to mimic a tidal process. This fill-and-drain sequence facilitates control of microbial processes, such as nitrification and denitrification. By mimicking natural biological degradation, these systems treat water to reuse standards under a very low energy footprint relative to traditional biological treatment systems.
What is a hydroponic treatment system?
Hydroponic treatment systems are made-up of a series of inter-connected reactors that have an array of plant life growing above them. Plant root systems grow into the reactors and provide a natural habitat for fixed-film and suspended micro-organisms that break down pollutants in water. Sustainable Water designs most hydroponic systems to include artificial media to support further fixed-film growth. Deep reactor vessels with high levels of biodiversity enable the treatment of larger volumes of wastewater under lower energy and physical footprint requirements.
How is the WaterHub different from traditional biological wastewater treatment solutions?
The WaterHub relies on proven, adaptive ecological technologies that mimic nature as found in wetlands, tidal marshes and rivers. By creating a suitable habitat (such as plant roots) for various microorganisms, the WaterHub has higher levels of biodiversity compared to traditional technologies. Improving on nature with man-made engineering techniques, the WaterHub breaks down organic materials more efficiently and more completely than traditional activated sludge treatment systems. Ecological treatment systems also consume less energy and less chemicals during the treatment process. In addition, the odor-free, natural aesthetic supports a flexible design approach with regard to locating a WaterHub in urban areas.
What function do plants serve?
The primary function of the plants is to provide a habitat in their root zone for microorganisms that consume and break down waste. Plants do remove phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) as these are basic plant nutrients; however, the plant’s contribution to P and N uptake is less significant than other components of the WaterHub.
What happens to plants in the winter? How cold of a climate will these systems operate in?
WaterHub facilities can operate in a variety of climates – cold or hot. Overall design is driven by anticipated climatic conditions. Areas with harsh winters will likely require an indoor system to maximize operational efficiency. For outdoor systems, plants may need to be trimmed in the winter as they go dormant. Replanting is typically not required in the spring as Sustainable Water uses native plants species adapted to winter or seasonal temperature variations.
How long does the treatment process take?
Depending on the system, the treatment process (hydraulic retention time) takes anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Overall, treatment time depends on a number of factors including: influent quality, effluent requirements, and the specific technologies utilized. Since each WaterHub® is custom-designed to meet siting, footprint, and aesthetic requirements, hydraulic-retention time can vary from site to site. Regardless of treatment time, each WaterHub® is designed to provide reclaimed water on demand for end users on-site.
What is the design capacity of WaterHub® reclamation systems?
Sustainable Water can design treatment systems that treat virtually any volume of water; however, we specialize in commercial scale systems ranging from approximately 25,000 – 2 million gallons per day.
How much design flexibility is there regarding footprint, aesthetics, etc.?
System design and footprint are highly flexible. Our technologies can conform to numerous siting constraints and are frequently designed with a compact footprint on previously undevelopable pieces of land. Overall design, layout and materials of construction can be customized to each client so that the WaterHub blends in to the existing community framework.
Are there any foul odors associated with the WaterHub®?
No, the WaterHub has multiple odor control features to make sure no unpleasant odors can be detected. By design all treatment is carried out below the surface where odors are mitigated by covering and sealing tanks with vapor barriers, aggregate and natural vegetation. This layering effect acts as a natural filter against odors originating from the tanks. Most biological treatment systems are open-aired and do not have these inherent odor barriers. Furthermore, air handlers and carbon scrubbers are used to purify and remove vagrant odors from within the sealed reactor tanks and the mechanical room if necessary. In addition, special care is taken to seal all pipes and connections to ensure that no foul odors from mining or pumping wastewater are detected.
How can a WaterHub® fit into dense, urban spaces?
The natural odor-free, vegetative-aesthetic has an appealing look and feel, which can be incorporated into very dense, public settings without fear of a “not-in-my-backyard” backlash. Sealed reactors provide a barrier against foul odors, while carbon air scrubbers filter any remaining fragrances. Unlike traditional biological treatment plants, these systems are designed for human interaction via a safe, controlled environment.
Is a greenhouse necessary for the system?
No. Both hydroponic and reciprocating wetland systems can be entirely outdoor systems; or, if desired, housed in alternative structures that allow plentiful natural light.
Can a WaterHub® be designed inside of a building?
Yes. The WaterHub treats water safely, securely, and beautifully, within any type of living or working environment, including building interiors and rooftops, gardens, cafes, lobbies.
How long does construction typically take?
A WaterHub typically takes between 6 – 12 months to construct, depending on the site, process design, permitting requirements, and the length of the reclaimed water distribution network. Once constructed, the system goes through a commissioning phase, in which populations of critical microorganisms are built-up and monitored, while extensive water quality testing is performed. Commissioning typically takes 2 – 4 months.
How does the WaterHub® create a more resilient community?
The WaterHub provides reclaimed water and removes a significant amount of potable water demand on-site. By creating a secondary source of water, the WaterHub mitigates the risk of drought and municipal service disruptions by providing an alternate source of water for non-potable needs. The system is designed with a clean water storage tank, which provides a first source of reclaimed water in the event of a potable water service disruption.
How can the WaterHub® be used as an educational facility?
The WaterHub can be designed to initiate or enhance academic research and community outreach activities. As a living, learning laboratory the WaterHub can be used as a platform to expand research and develop grant opportunities for hands-on education, or to serve as a mechanism to enhance community outreach. From chemistry to botany, the WaterHub is a perfect facility for immersion learning in a variety of subjects including, but not limited to:
- Water Quality and Treatment Systems
- Adaptive Ecosystems
- Microbiology and Environmental Sciences
- Public Health Standards
- Urban Planning and Development
- Environmental Justice
How does the WaterHub® help the environment?
Distributed, or decentralized, water reclamation and reuse is the most impactful and sustainable water management practice available. Water reclamation and reuse reduces withdrawals from sensitive ecosystems, as well as wastewater discharge, gallon for gallon. On-site reuse systems also reduce the community’s carbon footprint by reducing the embodied energy in water used, by eliminating a significant portion of water distribution systems in traditional centralized systems. Decentralized water reclamation reduces the load on municipal infrastructure, lessening the effect of combined-sewer overflows. Reducing the load ultimately expands the life of existing municipal water and sewer infrastructure.
What is a Water Purchase Agreement (WPA) and how does it work?
Similar to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a WPA is a financing vehicle that allows Sustainable Water to build turn-key water reclamation systems at no capital expense to the end user. Water savings produced by the project are used to pay off the cost of the facility over time; meanwhile, the end-user receives substantial guaranteed savings beginning year 1 and lasting throughout the agreement term (20-30 years).
What are the operational requirements of a WaterHub®?
With use of a sophisticated process control system, the WaterHub has a highly automated process from extracting wastewater to reactor oxygen diffusion and reclaimed water distribution. Increased levels of automation keep down operating expenses, but a certified wastewater treatment operator is required for system oversight and various mechanical/maintenance functions. Depending on the system, operational requirements can vary between 2- 6 hours per day.
Who is responsible for operations and maintenance?
Under a Water Purchase Agreement (WPA), Sustainable Water operates the WaterHub, performing all duties and covering all costs associated with producing a clean, safe and reliable source of reclaimed water. Sustainable Water will also operate and maintain the WaterHub™ outside of a Water Purchase Agreement, or the client may elect to outsource operations to a licensed third party. Under a WPA, Sustainable Water will cover all maintenance costs, including preventative and predictive maintenance.
What is the general governmental policy toward water reclamation & reuse?
The federal government, along with most state governments, recognizes water reclamation and reuse as an impactful water management strategy with numerous community benefits. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency releases Guidelines for Water Reuse to help incentivize and promote the implementation of water reclamation projects across the county. Federal and State governments even offer funding incentives for reclaimed water projects through revolving funds or grants.
Are there permitting requirements for water reclamation / reuse facilities?
Most states regulate minimum design and construction standards, along with operational requirements, for water reclamation plants to ensure public health and safety. Additionally, local municipal agencies may require permits for construction, wastewater pretreatment, or discharge. The WaterHub is designed in compliance with all state and local permitting requirements. Sustainable Water provides turn-key project support, supplying all engineering, permitting, construction, commissioning (start-up services), and operational services under a Water Purchase Agreement.
What does the Department of Energy think about this?
Since the 1950s U.S. power producers have consistently utilized reclaimed water. As part of its effort to define challenges and opportunities surrounding the water-energy relationship, the Department of Energy recently stated a need to, ‘Increase safe and productive use of nontraditional water sources,’ which includes reclaimed water.
What is water reclamation and reuse?
Water reclamation is the process of treating wastewater (blackwater or sewage) so that it can be recycled or reused for some beneficial purpose. In essence, turning a waste into a resource.
How is water reclamation and reuse good for the environment?
Water reclamation is one of the most sustainable water management practices available. Every gallon reused is a gallon saved from being withdrawn from aquifers or sensitive eco-systems. Every gallon reused is also a gallon of wastewater – potentially containing a variety of organic and inorganic pollutants – that is not discharged back to the environment. Water reclamation also reduces the impact of combined sewer overflows, expands the life of existing municipal water and sewer infrastructure, and helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with the treatment and distribution of water.
How is reclaimed water used?
Reclaimed water is typically used for non-potable purposes (e.g – water indirectly used by humans). Uses normally include: irrigation, make-up water for HVAC/utility systems (chillers, cooling towers & boiler systems), energy production, industrial process water uses (rinsing, wash downs, etc.), fire protection, decorative features (ponds & fountains), and cleaning purposes among other things. While it is not commonplace, a greater move to expand the uses of reclaimed water to direct uses is underway in many water-stressed areas.
Is reclaimed water safe?
When used appropriately, reclaimed water is extremely safe. State health departments typically mandate strict water quality requirements for reclaimed water, and studies show the removal of 99% of all water-borne pathogens from reclaimed water systems. Some reclaimed water facilities around the world even treat wastewater to drinking water standards, bottle it, and sell it to consumers.
What is the benefit of decentralized (satellite) water reclamation and reuse?
Satellite or on-site water reclamation provides a number of operational and economic benefits by localizing a cheap source of clean water near end-users. Reusing wastewater provides significant cost-savings by reducing potable water needs and potentially eliminating wastewater discharge. Having a local backup supply of water on-site provides security from drought or municipal service disruption. In addition, on-site water reclamation potentially provides numerous energy savings by eliminating long distribution lines for transporting clean water.
What is Recycled Water?
Recycled water is water that is treated and recycled to be reused again—generally, but not always, for non-potable purposes.
What is Reclaimed Water?
Reclaimed water is wastewater that is treated and recycled to be reused again—generally for non-potable purposes.
What is Blackwater?
Blackwater is sanitary wastewater.
What is Greywater?
Greywater is the wastewater from non-sanitary sources, such as showers, sinks and washing machines.
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is water from precipitation events, such as rain or snow. This water may be collected and cleaned for reuse.
What is Biofilm?
A biofilm is a layer of complex, adaptive ecosystems, which break down organic waste in water.
What is a Purple Pipe?
Pipes which carry reclaimed water are always purple—this differentiates them from wastewater and drinking water.
What is Non-Potable Demand?
Non-potable demand is the need for water which is not necessarily of drinking water quality. Rather than use highly-treated potable water for heating and cooling, for example, this demand could be met by reclaimed water.
How does The WaterHub® turn wastewater into clean water?
A WaterHub can utilize a variety of technologies. Whether reciprocating wetlands or fixed-film hydroponic systems, these technologies rely on an ecological process, mimicking nature, to maximize energy efficiency. Water circulates through biological reactors where microorganisms residing on both the surfaces and in the water break down organic waste. After initial biological treatment, water passes through a clarifier and then ultrafiltration – removing all solids, nutrients, and color from the water. After ultrafiltration, dual-stage disinfection (typically chlorine and ultraviolet light) removes approximately 99.9% of all viruses and bacteria.