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Industrial wastewater recycling systems are crucial for business sustainability and compliance, but certain myths and misconceptions may be hindering the progress of water recycling and reclamation in the USA. Take a look at some of these myths, and learn the truth surrounding these industrial wastewater treatment misconceptions.
Myth #1: The Environmental Protection Agency Prohibits/Requires Water Recycling and Reclamation
Many people are already aware that the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, covers water usage and asset allocation. This has led some people to believe that the EPA imposes specific regulations and requirements on water reclamation and recycling.
Some may believe that the EPA effectively prohibits water recycling on health grounds, while others may believe that the agency actually requires businesses and organizations to conduct water recycling projects and to factor this into their own water usage protocols.
The Truth: Water Recycling and Reclamation Is Regulated by State and Local Authorities
In fact, the EPA does nothing of the sort. The EPA is focused predominately on issues of water usage and water asset allocation, as mentioned above, and does not impose any specific requirements or prohibitions on water reclamation.
Of course, this does not mean that water recycling systems or other reclamation projects are unregulated. Authorities on a state and local level impose their own regulations and stipulations to ensure that water is handled in a safe and responsible manner. However, it is up to individual organizations to take the lead in reducing water asset deficits through reclamation and recycling.
Myth #2: Recycled or Reclaimed Water Is Only Suitable for a Small Number of Applications
Historically, some organizations have been reluctant to adopt water recycling strategies simply because they do not believe these strategies to be broadly useful. For instance, an industrial facility utilizing cooling towers has a clear and obvious need for recycled water on a large scale — keeping these towers stocked with water.
But businesses and organizations without such large-scale needs may not recognize the benefits of water reclamation systems. They may feel that the investment is not worthwhile for their own particular business model or mode of operation.
The Truth: Recycled and Reclaimed Water Can Be Used Across a Wide Number of Purposes
In actual fact, recycled water can be used for many different projects and purposes. On a municipal level, reclaimed water is used for a diverse range of applications, from irrigation for agriculture and public parks to dust control, construction projects, and residential uses.
Industrial facilities can also use recycled water to great effect. This water can be used for cooling machinery, operating facilities such as staff toilets, or even simply for supplementing the plant’s general mains water intake. All of these applications reduce the operating costs of the facility while also positively impacting its carbon footprint.
Myth #3: Water Reclamation and Recycling Is Only Necessary for Areas of Extreme Drought
The southern and southwestern regions of the United States are characterized by water shortages and droughts. Some of these areas — such as large swathes of Texas, New Mexico, California, and Nevada — are classed as regions of exceptional drought by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s National Drought Mitigation Center. Across the world, the effects of severe droughts are felt across all continents, putting hundreds of millions of people at significant risk.
A common myth surrounding water reclamation is that the process is only necessary for these areas of extreme or exceptional drought or during specific periods of water scarcity. Facility managers in North Dakota, for example — one of the only American states without a drought rating on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s most recent map — may feel that they simply do not need to waste money investing in an industrial water recycling system.
The Truth: Water Reclamation and Recycling Provides Significant Value Across the World
If we focus exclusively on the United States, we quickly see that individual locations and water authorities do not exist in isolation. While the need to conserve and reuse water is more acute in locations with existing deficits, facilities all over the country need to adopt a responsible approach to water.
Statistics from the EPA show that water usage in the USA has tripled in the last 50 years, and as many as 40 states are anticipating water shortages over the next two years and beyond. These patterns are reflected all over the world, highlighting the fact that this is a truly global concern.
Myth #4: Reclamation and Recycling Projects Can Cause Public Health Issues
It’s natural to be a little concerned about the health impacts of reusing wastewater. Industrial water recycling systems need to handle and treat a wide variety of toxic compounds, pathogens, and other harmful materials. If these materials make their way into potable water supplies or if on-site personnel is exposed to them, there could be a significant health risk.
This is why some facility managers may prefer to avoid this risk altogether. They may opt to deploy industrial wastewater treatment systems but dispose of the treated water afterward rather than recycle.
The Truth: There Is No Direct Threat Provided Reclamation and Recycling Are Handled Properly
With proper industrial wastewater treatment equipment and protocols, the risk to on-site personnel, local communities, and local ecosystems is minimal. In fact, reusing water forces industrial facilities to confront issues of effective treatment and handling, as the “out of sight, out of mind” element that can plague industrial wastewater disposal is removed. This leads to increased responsibility and sustainability regarding water handling.
Of course, any water that will be used for human consumption — such as drinking water — must be held to the highest possible standard. Facilities using industrial wastewater treatment systems and recycling equipment will generally produce non-potable water used for cooling, cleaning, and other purposes. It is possible to recycle water into drinking water, but this requires highly sophisticated equipment and a dedicated team, so it is generally left to facilities designed specifically for this purpose.
Industrial Wastewater Treatment Systems on the Frontline of Water Conservation
Industrial wastewater treatment systems that recycle and reclaim water, rather than simply dispose of it, are going to be on the frontline of water conservation in the coming years. Issues around ecological sustainability — including concerns around energy conservation and dwindling water supplies — will shape the industrial landscape in the near future and beyond, making the need for water recycling and reclamation even more acute.