News | March 11, 2014

New Report Explores Smarter Nutrient Management

Experts Examine Opportunities for Water Utility Sector Through Technology and Policy Lens

In the past century, population growth, urbanization and intensified agricultural practices have combined to increase strain on wastewater treatment facilities. A foremost challenge for utilities is managing nutrient levels in the water – and doing so while juggling economic and energy constraints.

The Road Toward Smarter Nutrient Management in Municipal Water Treatment, a new Charting New Waters report released recently by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, explores opportunities for the water utility sector to continue providing clean effluent, while also examining the opportunities for recovering nitrogen and phosphorus and returning it to the agricultural cycle.

The report is the product of a meeting convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, The Water Environment Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund, which brought together a group of experts to discuss how wastewater treatment can achieve more ambitious goals for the clean water it provides, while holding the line on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Each time we bring a diverse group of thinkers together, we are able to facilitate an exchange of fresh perspectives that move the conversation forward,” said Lynn Broaddus, Director of the Environment Program at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. “When it comes to wastewater treatment, we know that our current path is not optimal. Our most recent convening took the exploration of the issue one step further and assessed prospects for not only removing nutrients from effluent, but also finding a way to reuse them.”

In order to sustainably address the discharge of nutrients into the environment, the experts were guided by the following goals:

  • Maximizing the capture and reuse of waste stream nutrients;
  • Minimizing the energy used to process wastewater;
  • Minimizing the nutrients released into the environment;
  • Minimizing the alterations to the hydrologic cycle;
  • Minimizing the release of greenhouse has emissions from infrastructure; and
  • Maximizing economic benefits.

The report is part of Charting New Waters, a Johnson Foundation at Wingspread initiative bringing together experts to examine freshwater challenges, successes, innovations and potential solutions that can bridge geographies and inform national policy. Formally launched by the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in 2010, Charting New Waters is the work of a diverse group of leaders from business, agriculture, academia and environmental organizations that have publicly committed to improving U.S. freshwater resources by advancing the principles and recommendations of the group. These recommendations were captured in a consensus report: Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges issued in Sept. 2010. Download the report here.

The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is dedicated to serving as a catalyst for change by bringing together leading thinkers and inspiring new solutions on major environmental and regional issues. For more information, visit www.johnsonfdn.org.

SOURCE: Charting New Waters

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