With water demand flat in recent years, Reno hasn’t needed to implement IPR. When it does, the next steps will involve deployment, education, and regulatory approval. In the meantime, other communities have taken notice.
In November 2009, Rio Rancho, N.M., implemented an almost identical pilot project to explore the methodology’s viability. Thanks to a 70% population boom between 2000 and 2010, the city’s 90,000 residents are in danger of depleting their primary water source: groundwater. Having purified effluent for five years via a membrane bioreactor, the Utilities Services Division launched a $10.5 million aquifer storage-and-recovery project that ran for five months.
This process is a milestone in man’s relationship with water. For the first time in history, the effluent can be economically treated and safely used more than once—eliminating from our lexicon the concept of “waste” water.
Dave Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org) is water practice leader, and Vijay Sundaram (email@example.com) is process engineer for engineering firm Stantec Inc. Visit www.stantec.com.
Next step: getting regional buy-in
Having established a proven process for viable indirect potable reuse (IPR), Reno, Nev., water managers took the essential next step: sharing the methodology with their regional counterparts.
“Water rights were peaking at $40,000 per acre foot in some areas of Nevada, so drinking water is a hot topic,” says City of Reno Engineering Manager Terri Svetich. “But we often don’t talk enough about how wastewater can be used to feasibly support growth.”
In August 2011, Public Works’ Environmental Engineering division held a workshop that attracted regulators, state health officials, University of Nevada, Las Vegas researchers, tribal representatives, and operational team members from the City of Las Vegas. Svetich and her colleagues shared the pilot program’s results and shared potential applications within the city, both of which have implications for the rest of the state.
“This was a critical group to engage with because they’re the first stakeholders that need to understand and appreciate the concept,” she says. “Considerable education will be necessary when and if the need to deploy the methodology arises, but we gained a great deal from this project. We have a potential way of dealing with wastewater responsibly as our population grows.”