Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2014\Fit for Purpose Water: The Cost of Overtreating Reclaimed Water

Fit for Purpose Water: The Cost of Overtreating Reclaimed Water

Project: 10-01
Year Released: 2014
Type: Scientific Investigation

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation
Total Investment: $326,744.72 (Cash: $236,285.06, In-Kind: $90,459.66)

Principal Investigators: Larry Schimmoller, CH2M HILL and Mary Jo Kealy, CH2M Hill


Selecting the appropriate treatment technology and level of treatment for wastewater can be a complex decision dependent on numerous factors, such as regulations, effluent water quality, end uses of the treated water, and public perception. Recent experiences within the water reuse industry have demonstrated that reuse decisions are unduly influenced by perceptions that advanced treatment technologies are synonymous with better treatment. This is due in part to a lack of understanding of the full financial, environmental and social factors related to the treatment technology. It is the goal of this project to provide clarification for decision makers by quantifying the cost of the overtreatment of wastewater.

Goals and Objectives 

The overall objective of this project was to develop and apply a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) framework to help guide sound selection of an appropriate water reuse treatment process. In addition, this project aims to match the level of treatment to its intended use without expending unnecessary funds, energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and other pollutants, while minimizing other environmental and social costs.

Findings and Conclusions

The most influential Triple Bottom Line factors for potable and non-potable reuse projects were:

  • Direct Financial Costs—Construction, engineering, and annual operating costs
  • Upstream Environmental and Social Factors—GHG and other air emissions resulting from the plant’s electricity use and the production and transportation of chemicals required for water treatment
  • Downstream Environmental and Social Factors—GHG and other air emissions along with land requirements resulting from the transportation and disposal of salt and chemical solids concentrated at the treatment plant site.
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