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🗣️ "How Can Water Reuse Help Solve the Global Water Crisis?"

Climate Now

Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: James Lawler
Guest: Jon Freedman | Senior Vice President of Global Governmental Affairs | SUEZ
Category: 🗣️ Opinion | Water Reuse

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[3:54] “If you look around the world, there's some 40 countries that experience chronic water scarcity. So it’s a big global issue. Here in the US, we're an extremely well developed, wealthy nation, but we're still experiencing a fair amount of water scarcity, particularly in places like California and the Southwest. California just came out of its worst drought in the past 500 years.”

[5:50] “There are three things you can do to address water scarcity. You can conserve water. And that's often the first, quickest, and smartest thing, and most cost effective that you can do. But often, you can't conserve enough water to keep going as a business or a city. So two, you can then use desalination. Desalination is a great option to have if you have access to coastline or brackish groundwater supplies. But desalination tends to be very expensive and energy intensive, so huge carbon emissions. […] And that leaves wastewater reuse. Typically, desalination is two to four, or even five times as expensive as wastewater reuse. So that's the preferred option.”

[6:48] “On average, desalination used to be quite well over $1 per cubic meter, […] 264 gallons. Now it's down to probably 50 cents per cubic meter in kind of the newer desalination projects going on. […] Water reuse costs anywhere from 10 cents to an absolute high of 50 cents per cubic meter. And it’s almost always at least 50% cheaper than desalination, and uses far less energy. So it's a more climate friendly solution.

[7:47] “Communities who are dealing with water scarcity, but they have all this wastewater, and they're treating the wastewater to either primary or secondary degrees and […] then they're discharging it into typically rivers or oceans. What I'm talking about doing is replacing that process so that you're actually treating the wastewater through a combined process. We call it a membrane bio reactor. And it actually is using biological treatment combined with membrane physical separation to treat the wastewater. […] It gives you this new, fresh water.”

[14:23] “The world is reusing 2% of all the wastewater it collects and treats. […] Effectively this wastewater is a largely untapped reservoir that we can use to meet our water scarcity needs pretty cost effectively. But that's not the case globally. […] Singapore is […] reusing more than 30% of its wastewater. Israel was the clear world leader here […] by reusing 90% of its wastewater. […] In the US, […] we're probably reusing 6 to 8% of our wastewater nationally. But if you go to California, it's probably more like 13 to 16%.”

[17:00] “If you look in the developing world, 70% of all water goes to agriculture. But if you looked at in the developed world, like here in the United States, it's 30%. […] 60% of water is going to industrial uses. And by the way, the bulk of that is going to power plants […]. And that leaves communities 10%.”

[18:45] “I think the root cause for the slow uptake of more reuse, even in places where they're experiencing pretty acute scarcity and it just makes all the sense in the world, is that water tariffs tend to be very low. I think it's $2.58 per cubic meter of water […] . So it's basically just just under a penny per gallon of water treated, delivered to your home. So water tends to be so inexpensive, that when businesses and even communities look at reusing wastewater, they just can't make the economics work.”

Rating: 💧💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 26 min | 🗓️ 04/19/2022
✅ Time saved: 24 min

Additional Links:
Article: “Summary Progress Update 2021: SDG 6 — water and sanitation for all” (UN, 2021)
Article: “Israel leads the way in wastewater reuse” (Smart Water Magazine, 2020)