Patricia Sinicropi, Executive Director at the WateReuse Association and Richard Gilb, Environmental Affairs Manager at the San Diego Airport Authority both discuss catalyzing on-site reuse facilities.

Richard Gilb - San Diego Airport Authority - World Water-Tech North AmericaWhat is driving industrial water users to invest and establish on-site reuse facilities? What results have early adopters experienced?

Richard Gilb, Environmental Affairs Manager, SAN DIEGO AIRPORT AUTHORITY: “At the San Diego International Airport, we are developing facilities to capture and reuse stormwater and air-conditioning condensate. The two main drivers for establishing these facilities are: the airport lies adjacent to San Diego Bay and strict stormwater pollution prevention regulations are driving us in the direction of keeping stormwater on site rather than discharging to the bay; and we are located in a semi-arid environment that is heavily dependent on imported water and we have sustainability goals that seek to develop on-site alternative sources of water to eliminate the use of potable water for non-potable purposes.

Espousing the multiple environmental and social benefits of on-site reuse facilities have been crucial for us to make these facilities realities. Potable water at the faucet is so heavily subsidized it is difficult to show an obvious positive financial return on investment. We have also found that our plans are outpacing the regulations surrounding the use of alternative sources of water (such as captured stormwater). That hasn’t stopped us, but does lead to hesitation on the part of some.

In response to the impacts of climate change and population growth, industrial water users are increasingly embracing water reuse as a strategy to minimize water and energy risk for operations. While investments in water recycling systems are often driven by regional water scarcity or wastewater discharge limitations in the short term, sustainable use of water is often an expectation of customers, shareholders, and the local community. Onsite industrial water reuse systems typically lead to reductions in freshwater costs and wastewater flows, as well as improved operational efficiency and production capacity due to the increase in available clean water.”

Patricia Sinicropi - Watereuse - World Water-TechPatricia Sinicropi, Executive Director, WATEREUSE: “In response to the impacts of climate change and population growth, industrial water users are increasingly embracing water reuse as a strategy to minimize water and energy risk for operations. While investments in water recycling systems are often driven by regional water scarcity or wastewater discharge limitations in the short term, sustainable use of water is often an expectation of customers, shareholders, and the local community. Onsite industrial water reuse systems typically lead to reductions in freshwater costs and wastewater flows, as well as improved operational efficiency and production capacity due to the increase in available clean water.”

 

What technology advances are pushing down the cost of onsite reuse? How close are we to plug and play black- and grey-water recycling systems?

Patricia Sinicropi: “Technology innovation continues to make onsite industrial water reuse more efficient and cost effective. While the variety of industrial facility processes means that each system is somewhat custom, several technology providers offer commercial scale systems that have been installed at multiple facilities saving time and resources.”

What steps need to be taken to accelerate the adoption of on-site reuse? What barriers are delaying this process and how can they be overcome?

Patricia Sinicropi: “Although many forward-thinking industrial water users are already implementing or considering water reuse programs, barriers to more widespread adoption include a lack of clarity on how to proceed and a greater need for a rapid return on investment then we see in the municipal sector. Effective economic and regulatory incentive structures at every level of government can help. Communities such as New York City and San Francisco, for example, offer funding or regulatory guidance to encourage onsite reuse. Establishing a federal tax credit for retrofitting industrial facilities to use recycled water could be a game changer.”