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In April CWEA partnered with Sustainable Silicon Valley for a panel discussion about Onsite Reuse during Annual Conference in Santa Clara. We recently talked with Peter Haase, a long-time CWEA member and one of the panel members, about his experiences with onsite reuse.
Peter is a Principal Engineer with Fall Creek Engineering and Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technical Officer for Acqualogic. Peter has over 31 years of professional experience in the field of civil, environmental, and water resources engineering and international development. In his positions Peter directs the design, construction and servicing of decentralized water and wastewater treatment projects in California and internationally.
Have you had success with onsite wastewater reuse?
Yes, we have over 25 years of experience with onsite reuse. Our systems use anaerobic & aerobic treatment including anaerobic baffled reactors, trickling filters and constructed wetlands.
We’ve done a lot of installations where the treated effluent from our treatment systems is reused onsite for ornamental landscaping, playing fields and fruit trees. Other reuses include wineries where the treated water is used on grapevines, pastures and dust control on farm roads.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing onsite wastewater reuse today?
A big challenge we face is getting qualified operators. There is no real classification for onsite reuse, and with the existing certification process it is necessary for an operator to be already working at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in order to become certified.
This presents a real challenge to private enterprise. Onsite wastewater treatment has been around for a long time, but non-water professionals, such as contractors, don’t have the training and expertise necessary to operate the more sophisticated systems that are being used today.
Risk avoidance means we need to have sophisticated monitoring and qualified service providers. It is very difficult for private enterprise to get operators certified. There needs to be a parallel track for certification of operators who are not working at municipal plants.
Additionally, a lot of existing operators are baby boomers and will be retiring soon. The shortage of qualified and certified operators will affect both municipal and private treatment facilities. It is important to streamline certification to encourage people to enter this field, whether public or private.
How do you see wastewater reuse evolving in the future?
Onsite Wastewater Reuse is an emerging technology, and I see a greater call for onsite water reuse as the technology improves and demand for water continues to increase. The cost is more economical due to more remote monitoring and lower infrastructure costs.
Building a big pipe to a centralized wastewater treatment plant is becoming less economically viable as more water is reused onsite. Traditionally decentralized systems were used in more remote areas that could not be tied into the centralized system.
Now we are finding these systems are being installed in urban areas which would have previously been hooked into the centralized system, with the developers choosing to reuse a portion of the plant effluent onsite in non-potable applications.
There has been a notion that private enterprise for wastewater treatment, incorporating onsite reuse, and centralized municipal wastewater systems are at odds with one another. But as the infrastructure ages we need to work together to provide the most cost effective treatment for wastewater, and wastewater reuse.
To learn more about Peter’s firm Aqualogic please visit www.acqualogic.com