Examples of Innovation in the Water Sector

Across the country there is growing momentum to address traditional and emerging threats to the nation’s water resources through innovative technology. The EPA documents Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future – A Progress Report and Promoting Technology Innovation for Clean and Safe Water: Water Technology Innovation Blueprint – Version 2 highlighted the following examples of how innovation is currently being deployed in the water sector.

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Gresham, OR Achieves Energy Net Zero
Through the use of biogas generation and recovery, as well as ground-mounted solar arrays, the City of Gresham’s wastewater treatment plant is the first in the Pacific Northwest to generate the same amount of electricity as it consumes each year. More information on Gresham's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Madison, WI Harvests Phosphorus
The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, in conjunction with Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, recovers phosphorus at their Nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant, converting it into an environmentally friendly fertilizer, Crystal Green®. More information on Phosphorus Harvesting.

Mobile App for Water Quality Data
A mobile application called KCWaterBug provides live water quality data so users can make real-time informed decisions about recreation in numerous streams in the Kansas City area. More information on Kansas City Water Quality App.

Rocky River Hydrology
Cleveland Metroparks studied the hydrology of the Rocky River headwater streams affected by runoff by using real-time flow and water quality sensors to attain precise, short-interval hydrograph and water quality data. More information on Cleveland Metroparks

Improving Onsite Systems
The Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center (MASSTC) aids in the development, testing, and piloting of new and innovative onsite technologies. More information on MASSTC.

Private Wastewater Treatment for Nutrients
A partnership between the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Kingman Yacht Center marina is working to provide currently unsewered households with access to a new, privately built wastewater treatment plant as a means to control the discharge of nutrients. More information on Buzzards Bay Coalition.

Philadelphia, PA Extracts Heat from Wastewater
The city of Philadelphia uses a geothermal process, acting like a large heat pump, to extract ambient heat from wastewater to heat its compressor building and gallery space, saving $18,000 a year in energy costs. More information on geothermal process (PDF) (2 pp, 1 MB, About PDF).

DC Water Saves Energy
DC Water is the first plant in North America to adopt a Cambi thermal hydrolysis process that will enable them to create a significant amount of biogas which, when fully operating, will generate one-third of the plant’s energy requirement. More information on a Greener Blue Plains.

Rainwater Harvesting at EPA
EPA’s Headquarters facility recently upgraded an existing 6,000-gallon capacity rainwater harvesting system with OptiNimbus real-time controls to manage stormwater retention and use more effectively. The system allows EPA to monitor the volume of rainwater captured and used over time. More information on stormwater.

Crisfield, MD Uses Wind Power
The city of Crisfield is planning a 750 megawatt (MW) wind turbine to provide electricity at its wastewater treatment plant. The turbine is expected to generate more than enough electricity to power the treatment plant and save the city $150,000 to $200,000 a year in electricity costs. More information on Crisfield.

Emory University Reclaims Wastewater
The WaterHub at Emory University is reducing its water footprint nearly 40% by reclaiming and reusing up to 146 million gallons of campus wastewater annually by using an adaptive ecological technology that naturally breaks down organic matter in wastewater for use as make-up water in its steam and chiller plants. More information can be found at:

Resource Conservation and Pollution Reduction at Wastewater Treatment Facilities
As part of a broader Energy Management Initiative (EMI), EPA Region 4 supported energy assessment site visits at eight wastewater treatment facilities. The site visits identified opportunities for significant energy savings, and reductions in CO2 equivalent, and nitrogen discharges, at very little to no cost to the utilities. More information on Region 4

Potable Reuse
The communities of Big Spring and Wichita Falls, Texas, became the country’s first two potable reuse facilities, using multiple barrier technologies and intense monitoring. More information can be found:

Cleaning Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater
Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder have developed a method using microbes to clean both organic contaminants and salts from hydraulic fracturing wastewater, while producing renewable energy. More information on Colorado, Boulder.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District, CA
The recently completed construction of an advanced water purification facility will reclaim treated wastewater and use it to recharge drinking water aquifers, providing 20-25 percent of Padre Dam’s current drinking water demands. More information on advanced water purification

GreenPlan Bay Area
The GreenPlan Bay Area project developed a GIS-based tool and GreenPlans to help municipalities identify the optimal combination and location of green infrastructure/low impact development features to address water quality on a watershed scale. More information on GreenPlan Bay Area.

Protecting Lake Tahoe
The Lake Clarity Crediting Program uses a suite of stormwater tools and protocols to target ongoing effective actions to reduce urban stormwater fine sediment and nutrient pollutants to Lake Tahoe. More information on Lake Tahoe.  

Utility Harnesses Hydropower
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) harnesses energy via an in-line hydroelectric turbine and generator, of which 25 percent is used onsite by the utility and 75 percent is exported back to the grid. More information on energy program (PDF) (14 pp, 6 MB, About PDF).

Dairy Farm Goes Energy Positive
Brubaker Farm, a 900-head dairy in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania, captures methane from manure digestion and produces electricity to provide power to the farm and sell excess back to the grid, enough to power 150–200 homes. Waste heat from the generator heats water for the farm and is used to dry digested solids for bedding for cow comfort. More information on Brubaker Farm.

Utility Extracts Nutrients from Wastewater
The Hampton Roads Sanitation District uses a new and innovative green technology from Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, known as the Pearl® Process, to recover phosphorus and nitrogen to create a slow-release fertilizer, Crystal Green®. More information on Pearl Process.

Greening of Our Cities
Green City, Clean Waters is the city of Philadelphia’s 25-year plan to protect and enhance its watersheds by managing stormwater with intensely implemented green infrastructure. More information on What Philadelphia is Doing

Save the Rain is Onondaga County’s and the city of Syracuse’s visionary stormwater management and public outreach pro¬gram, featuring over 100 projects, capturing over 100 million gallons of runoff each year to protect their watershed. Every project advanced through the program has a unique Web page where the public can review the project design elements, cost and stormwater capture objectives. More information on Save the Rain.

The World’s Largest Potable Reuse System
The Groundwater Replenishment System operated by the Orange County Water District is the world’s largest advanced water purification system for indirect potable reuse, taking treated wastewa¬ter that is purified to produce a high-quality water. More information on Groundwater Replenishment System.

Proliferation of Remote/Continuous Monitoring
The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC) is working to create a network of monitoring buoys for real-time, continuous water quality data on the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers. More information on NGRREC.

Researchers at Clemson University are building the “Intelligent River” to provide real-time monitoring, analysis and management of water resources. More information on the Intelligent River.

Wireless Waterways is a project commissioned by the Port of Pittsburgh that will use the latest monitoring and information technology to manage the water resources in real time so commerce and recreation along the Pittsburgh Waterfront are easier for everyone. More information on Wireless Waterways

The Jefferson Project is a collaborative effort between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and the FUND for Lake George (New York) to develop a lake environmental monitoring and prediction system to provide a real-time understanding of lake health. More information on The Jefferson Project.

The Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) is a network of real-time monitoring stations on the Hudson River Estuary. HRECOS is a collaborative effort between multiple agencies, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, USGS and NOAA, among others. More information on HRECOS.

The River and Estuary Observatory Network is an effort between Clarkson University’s Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries and IBM to use real-time monitoring technologies to better understand the Hudson River ecosystem from the headwaters in the Adirondack Mountains to the ocean. More information on River and Estuary Observatory Network

Use of Gray Water as Makeup for Cooling Towers
The Public Service Enterprise Group’s Linden Generating Station does not currently employ a cooling water intake structure. Instead, the Linden Generating Station uses reclaimed wastewater from the nearby Linden Roselle Sewerage Authority (LRSA) for all its cooling water needs. After being used for cooling, any remaining water (e.g., cooling tower blowdown) is pumped back to LRSA for treatment again. More information on Public Service Enterprise Group

Adapting to Climate Change and Water Reuse
Due to damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority’s Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant had to be relocated away from the coastal plain and rebuilt. The new Central Water Reclamation Facility has treatment technology that enables the reuse of 100 percent of the nearly 22.5 million gallons per day (average flow) treated at the facility. More information on Emerald Coast Utilities

Reinventing the Toilet
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation challenged universities to design toilets that capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, while capturing useful resources. The Foundation’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene Program strives to spur change to improve worldwide drinking water while reducing sanitation-related problems. More information on water, sanitation and hygiene.

Using Roleplaying to Manage Watersheds
The University of Virginia (UVA) Bay Game is a computerized simulation based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The simulation allows players to take the roles of stakeholders, such as farmers, developers, watermen and local policy-makers, and make decisions about their watershed. More information on UVA Bay Game.

Third Party Technology Evaluation
The Water Environment Federation and Water Environment Foundation have established LIFT (Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology), a program designed to enable technology evaluations for municipal and industry end-users to share the cost of conducting demonstrations to accelerate adoption of new and innovative technologies. More information on LIFT

High-Efficiency Ultraviolet Disinfection System
Several drinking water utilities, together with the Water Research Foundation, are working to pilot a high-efficiency UV system. The research will evaluate the reliability and effectiveness of the technology for Cryptosporidium inactivation, maintenance requirements, and operation and maintenance costs. More information on ultraviolet disinfection system.  

Utility Goes Energy Positive
More than a decade ago, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in California began accepting organic wastes from local food processors, food growers and livestock producers to better utilize the excess capacity in its existing anaerobic digesters. The result has been a doubling of biogas production, which allowed EBMUD’s wastewater treatment plant to become the first facility in North America to produce more renewable energy on site than is needed to run the facility. More information on recycling water and energy

Reinventing Urban Water Infrastructure
ReNUWIt is a multi-institution research center that works in close partnership with utilities, water service providers, equipment manufacturers and international research partners to convert great ideas for re-inventing the nation’s urban water infrastructure into practical and sustainable solutions. More information on Reinventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure.  

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