Water resource planning requires circular approach

By Beatrice Martin, Head of Water at Xylem

Beatrice Martin, head of water at Xylem
Beatrice Martin, Head of Water at Xylem

Ambitious water resource management plans represent a major investment for water companies, says Beatrice Martin, head of water at Xylem, with the drafts revealing increasing deployment of water reuse.

The scale of ambition shown by utilities in England and Wales in their draft water resource management plans (WRMP24) is impressive, and has not gone unnoticed by the Environment Agency, which said the plans show “a significant increase in water companies’ ambition for drought resilience and the environment”.

Together, the plans propose an exciting multi-billion-pound infrastructure programme intended to achieve a secure supply of water for customers, looking ahead 25 years or more.

Xylem already supports all water companies in England and Wales with a range of water quality and resilience projects and I have read through their draft plans with interest. They make clear the need for urgent action to address water scarcity. By 2050 a shortfall of approximately 4,000Ml/day is forecast, between available water supplies and expected demand.

To meet this growing demand, it is encouraging to see proposals for 11 new water recycling schemes – for indirect reuse – in catchments expected to be the worst affected by water scarcity. Indirect reuse sees final effluent reclaimed and given advanced treatment at a water recycling plant before being discharged to a river, reservoir or aquifer, to be abstracted and further treated at a water treatment works.

The process produces high-quality water, often at a lower lifecycle cost than the development of new water resources. Reuse generally requires advanced treatment processes such as membrane filtration or reverse osmosis, combined with disinfection or advanced oxidation.

WRMP reuse schemes are being overseen by RAPID – Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development – which was formed to help accelerate large-scale strategic water supply options in response to the water scarcity challenge.

Given the urgency, some planned RAPID schemes must be operational by 2027, which is a short timescale by usual water industry standards. However, while water reuse is new for the UK, systems have been operating successfully for at least a decade in Australia and Singapore, and parts of Africa and North America. Xylem has supported many of these projects and most process technology that can be used to convert wastewater into reusable water is in our solutions portfolio.

In 2015, Xylem was commissioned to deliver a unique water reuse solution to help increase the supply of purified, recycled water in Los Angeles. Xylem’s Wedeco MiPRO photo advanced oxidation process (AOP) was deployed, ensuring the City of Los Angeles Terminal Island Water Reclamation Plant complied with stringent groundwater recharge regulations.

In England and Wales, learnings from this experience and other projects are being shared with a number of utilities and their consultants, while also examining local requirements and regulations and working with partners to design appropriate systems.

Of course, while water professionals understand the urgency of funding and delivering reuse projects, the public still may not. Promotion of the value of water and early, effective communications to assure customers that water recycling provides a safe source of drinking water will be essential to move projects forward.

Alongside water reuse, are WRMP24 projects that follow a virtuous water-cycle – from catchment management, abstraction and transport; to treatment, leakage reduction and network optimisation. There have been recent advances in technology to support in all these areas.

One example is the use of onsite electrochlorination (OSEC) treatment technology, which supports companies’ ambitions to reduce their carbon footprint. OSEC safely generates chlorine onsite using only salt, water and power. The technology has existed for a while, but Xylem brand Evoqua is seeing it boom again, due to efforts to reduce the transport of hazardous chemicals.

For network optimisation, sensor technologies now enable permanent condition monitoring of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes. This includes Xylem’s SoundPrint acoustic fibre-optic system, which – in a European first – was deployed by Scottish Water in June 2022, to extend the asset life of a 16km trunk main.

Finally, the WRMPs show that water companies are starting to look at the water-cycle in its entirety when planning future resources. As resource management now includes advanced wastewater treatment, this is entirely the right approach. Wherever it is sourced, water is always water, and by taking a holistic approach to resource management, it is possible to harness the benefit of every drop.




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