Water Recycling and Reuse

Worldwide demand for fresh water is set to exceed available resources by 40% by 2030, and demand for water in manufacturing is predicted to increase by 400% by 2050. Combine these stark figures with the impact of climate change and it is clear that dramatic progress is needed by industry to recycle wastewater so that the world’s water needs can continue to be met.

What is water recycling?

Water recycling describes the process of treating wastewater and the reuse of that water. Water recycling (or water reclamation) systems involve an extensive treatment process to achieve the quality needed for safe reuse on site.

How does wastewater recycling work?

Wastewater is typically treated biologically: either aerobically or anaerobically, or a combination of both. Ultrafiltration (UF) followed by Reverse Osmosis (RO) can then be applied to further enhance the water quality removing particles, pathogens and larger molecules. RO involves forcing the water molecules across an advanced filter, which rejects unwanted molecules and microbes. Finally it undergoes further water purification treatment with UV light and/or disinfection.

The extent of treatment in the water recycling process depends on what the reclaimed water will be used for. The most common uses for recycled water include general washing down, steam generation or cooling. However, Alpheus also provide recycled water for full product contact.

Why is water reuse important for industry?

It can reduce operating costs

It makes sense from an economic point of view as it helps companies maintain production and reduce operating costs, reducing reliance on the mains water supply and the amount of water discharged into the main sewer network or to the environment.

It protects our environment, contributing to the circular economy

Responsible reuse of water will help us reduce and avoid ecological, carbon and financial costs of building infrastructure to treat and move water from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce.

Certain wastewater recycling processes produce valuable by-products

Anaerobic digestion (AD) as part of a wastewater treatment process can produce energy (electricity and heat) or gas into the grid. High nitrate fertiliser can even be made for agricultural use. These offer both economic and environmental benefits.

It mitigates the effects of water scarcity

The combination of climate change and population growth means that droughts are increasing and water is becoming more scarce, as highlighted in UN reports. Industry and water companies must work together to maximise reuse of water in order to secure a future where demand continues to be met.

Interested in water recycling?

Get in touch today to find out more about the options available to reuse water from your on-site wastewater operations.

Contact us

How is wastewater treated before reuse?

We’ve summarised the typical steps below, where you can also click on the links to read more about the individual processes.

Step 1 – Screening and Separation

Course screens or filters are used at the start of the treatment process to remove any large solids from wastewater.  Physical separation processes, such as lamella settlement tanks and Dissolved Air Flotations (DAF) systems, follow to remove fine particulates.

Step 2 – Biological  secondary treatment

Wastewater is then typically treated biologically: either aerobically or anaerobically. It can also be a combination of two. Anaerobic treatment should be considered where it is viable as it produces biogas which can be used to create power and heat for use on site.

Step 3 – Further filtration

Ultrafiltration (UF) and Reverse Osmosis (RO) can then be applied to further enhance the water quality removing particles, pathogens and larger molecules to produce high quality effluent.

Step 4 – Purification

Finally the water undergoes water purification treatment (such as UV, deionisation and distillation) to remove bacteria or impurities that can’t be filtered out using membranes.

Step 5 - Sludge treatment

The solids and pollutants removed through the treatment process (called sludge) have the potential for reuse as a high nitrate fertiliser.

What industries can benefit from a wastewater recycling system?

Industries that have a heavy reliance on water, and in particular, those that process organic matter could benefit most.

Whilst this gives a good indication of industries that could benefit from water recycling systems, it is not exhaustive, so if you’re keen to find out more about recycling water in your operations, contact us by phone or email.

Typical industries:

  • Food and beverage manufacturers.
  • Distilleries, breweries and wineries.
  • Dairy, farming and agriculture.
  • Pharmaceutical and cosmetic manufacturing.

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