News | June 18, 2024

USask Researcher Exploring Sustainable Solutions For Wastewater

Funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant program will support Dr. Kerry McPhedran’s (PhD) project to investigate reuse options for municipal wastewater and stormwater.

With both increasing water demands and strained capacity to handle wastewater, there is a growing need for exploring water reuse and recycling in Canadian cities.

McPhedran, University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) Centennial Enhancement Chair in Water Stewardship for Indigenous Communities, and professor in Civil, Geological and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, said funding from the NSERC Discovery Grant will support a project that explores community concerns around reusing municipal wastewater and stormwater for personal and industrial use.

Currently, cities use a lot of energy to collect both wastewater and stormwater. McPhedran said that energy could be channelled into recycling the collected wastewater instead of simply storing and releasing it.

“We put a lot of energy and money into putting wastewater and stormwater into a river instead of finding ways to reuse it,” said McPhedran. “And recently there is a big push to reuse water but as you can imagine the biggest hurdle, especially with municipal wastewater, is stigma. People don’t want to drink it.”

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station safely use recycled wastewater for their day-to-day activities and McPhedran said we can do something similar with our wastewater, transforming it through sustainable projects within Canadian communities.

“We talk about net zero power, but we can also achieve net zero water, where a community would be able to safely reuse the onsite water that is available,” said McPhedran.

The NSERC funding will allow McPhedran to investigate attitudes and analyze the potential concerns around the reuse of municipal wastewater and stormwater and assess the challenges associated with these kinds of projects across Canada. This includes public consultation and speaking to community groups to gather data which will help future decisions about wastewater usage.

“If people are involved in the process of creating clean water, then they will hopefully be willing to use the water,” said McPhedran.

“You really have to understand people’s perspectives and their concerns and be able to transfer that social understanding into policy and regulations, and that is what we’re going to try and achieve with wastewater and stormwater reuse.”

McPhedran said that the NSERC Discovery Grant is a great way to build momentum for projects which helps researchers gain access to more funding or investment from industry partners.

“The NSERC Discovery Grants let you dive into the research and academic aspects of projects that can help you build a knowledge base for those industry partnerships,” said McPhedran. “And it allows an engineer like me to explore social outreach and that important social component.”

McPhedran is one of 41 USask researchers to receive funding from the NSERC Discovery Grant program. A complete list of USask projects.

Source: University of Saskatchewan