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Bill Gates Drinks Poop Water, Serves Notice

By Kevin Westerling
Bill Gates Drinks PoopCredit where it’s due: I didn’t develop the information I’m sharing  but it’s too good to merely retweet or “like.” My enthusiasm stems from one of the world’s most famous, influential, and capable people getting fully behind sustainable wastewater treatment and direct potable reuse, bringing widespread attention to typically underappreciated water issues.

That person is Bill Gates, most notably the multibillionaire co-founder of Microsoft, but also (more to the point for this story) co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to combat extreme poverty. Much of the Foundation’s recent focus has been on clean water availability and sanitation, but has only tangentially related to what we report at Water Online … until now.

Wastewater contains energy that can be harnessed and utilized

Photo by Chesapeake Bay ProgramPhoto by Chesapeake Bay ProgramWastewater contains energy in the form of potential energy, thermal energy and chemically bound energy, all of which can be harnessed and utilized. In the USA, there are 104 wastewater treatment plants using biogas to produce a total of 190 MW capacity. Wastewater is increasingly recognized as potential source of energy: in several countries, water supply companies are working towards becoming energy-neutral. It is estimated that more than 80% of used water worldwide -and up to 90% in developing countries- is neither collected nor treated, threatening human and environmental health.

Energy is required for pumping and treating water
Energy is required for two components of water provision: pumping and treatment (before and after use). Electricity costs are estimated at 5% to 30% of the total operating cost of water and wastewater utilities, but in some developing countries such as India and Bangladesh, it is as high as 40% of the total operating cost. World Water Development Report 2014

Municipal wastewater: from production to use

The CGIAR Research Programme on Water, Land and Ecosystems, led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the Land and Water Division of FAO are collaborating to collect, analyze and validate the best available data on municipal wastewater production, collection, treatment, discharge and direct use for irrigation purposes. The results of this collaboration are available in AQUASTAT, also announced on IWMI’s website.

While other existing wastewater databases often focus on percentage of sanitation coverage or pollution loads, AQUASTAT focuses on annual volumes at national level. The reason for choosing volume as the parameter is to facilitate the integration of these data in the water resources and use accounts in the different countries.

Global wastewater database

New data pool will boost global assessment and monitoring of wastewater and its fate.

Wastewater irrigation in Ghana Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah IWMIWastewater irrigation in Ghana Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah IWMIAs the world urbanizes, demands on water resources will skyrocket. Not only will burgeoning cities increase their water use, more and higher quality food will be needed to sate urban appetites. Millions of farmers are already responding to this new reality by using urban effl uents to grow crops in periurban areas. Wastewater is a source of water all the year round, rich in nutrients and, if safely used, can be a highly productive resource.

Investing In the Reuse of Treated Wastewater


370420Note171InvestInReuse01PUBLIC1Of the projected 1 billion growth in global population by 2015, 88 percent will take place in cities, nearly all of it in developing countries (UNDP 1998). Investments in urban water supply and sewerage coverage are rising, as shown in Figure 1. However, as shown in Table 1, adequate treatment for agricultural reuse with acceptable risk mitigation for human health and the environment will require further investment (World Bank and Swiss Development Corporation 2001).

While this Investment Note addresses reuse after treatment, it is critical to ensure that investments in treatment appropriate for reuse schemes will be made. Urban wastewater is well suited to agricultural reuse and landscaping because of the reliability of supply, proximity to urban markets, and its nutrient content (depending on the treatment technology). To have an impact on scarcity, reuse of wastewater must substitute for, not add to, existing uses of higher-quality water.

Moreover, reuse of treated wastewater often disproportionately benefits the poor. It must be combined with strategies to prevent or mitigate health risks from pathogens, heavy metals, pesticides, and endocrine disrupters, and environmental damage from heavy metals and salinity. Long-term institutional coordination among urban, agricultural, and environmental authorities and end users is a requirement for water reuse investments to pay off. This note outlines technological and management interventions suitable for World Bank lending.




Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene November - December 2017 Vol.12 No.6