By Peter Chawaga
For months, maybe years, it has seemed that potable reuse is on the verge of having its moment. Freshwater resources continue to dwindle and water recycling technology continues to improve, two trends that promise to collide in a not-so-distant future. It is an exciting time.
To seize the moment, the WateReuse Association, an international foundation dedicated to promoting the adoption of recycled water, will be hosting its 2016 Potable Reuse Summit on October 17 and 18 in Oklahoma City.
“The use of purified water to augment our drinking water supplies provides a sustainable pathway to meeting burgeoning environment and societal challenges to global water supplies,” said Melissa Meeker, executive director of the WateReuse Association. “This event provides a complete picture for any community considering or developing a local reuse project.”
To paint that picture, WateReuse will present four utilities from four states — El Paso Water Utilities from Texas, the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources from Georgia, the Upper Occoquan Service Authority from Virginia, and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency from California — that have successfully planned, built, and operated potable reuse projects. Management teams, engineers, and communications professionals will participate in panel discussions to explain how they addressed regulatory issues, demonstrated environmental and economic viability, and secured public acceptance.
“The success stories that will be presented at the summit illustrate that potable reuse is a safe and effective option for any water supply portfolio,” said Meeker.
WateReuse also plans to use panel discussions to address questions about public health, possibly the most pervasive concern when it comes to potable reuse, and the latest research and technology for recycling water.
Meeker anticipates about 200 attendees and plans to offer something useful for them all, regardless of how close they may be to actually implementing a potable reuse program.
“For those at the early stages, the summit will provide a complete picture, including successes and lessons learned, to aid in planning and implementing a smooth project,” she said. “For potable reuse projects that are further along in the process or already operating, the summit offers an opportunity to benchmark and learn from what others are doing.”
She also hopes to draw utility board members and other decision-makers, giving them confidence that the time is right to implement potable reuse programs.
As for the location, Oklahoma City may seem like a strange place to host an event about a practice that is most popular in larger, more water-stressed states like California, Florida, and Texas. But it’s precisely that lack of reputation that makes it the ideal destination from which to take the next step.
“The State of Oklahoma is embracing water reuse as a sustainable water supply option [and] has a vision for the future that includes potable reuse,” said Meeker. “Oklahoma City is the ideal backdrop to bring together experienced potable reuse professionals looking to discover what’s new and what’s next with professionals newer to reuse that are looking to benefit from lessons learned from utilities that have already done these kinds of projects.”
Perhaps this summit will mark the moment that potable reuse projects go from innovative rarities to hallmarks of average municipal supplies.
“Instead of reacting to an emergency situation, communities can work proactively to develop a resilient water supply,” said Meeker. “Potable reuse as part of a diverse water supply portfolio makes sense for an increasing number of communities.”