The issue of poor water quality and limited availability is threatening more and more cities and municipalities every year, with the arid regions of the West in the most danger. Scientists and researchers have been working on ways of solving these water problems and are finally making meaningful breakthroughs.
Leading the charge into the dangerous frontier is Dr. Jorg Drewes, associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at the Colorado School of Mines. Recently, Drewes was recognized by “5280” magazine in Denver for his accomplishments in the area of water research, specifically for the work he has done in solving the water scarcity issue for the Front Range.
One of the primary ways to solve our water issues is by reusing water. Drewes is in a partnership with other researchers from Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, and New Mexico State University working on ways of turning waste-water back into usable water.
Drewes and his team are working on a new model for the water infrastructure in the United States, with treatment options that are tailored for each individual community. Currently, water infrastructure usually involves one remote treatment plant and water storage facility for a large metro area, and those large facilities often require large amounts of energy to process the water. Drewes and his colleagues think that individual towns and municipalities would be better served by smaller plants that are tailored to the communities’ own needs.
For example, an agricultural area would not need to process all of its waste-water to be good enough for drinking, because large quantities would be used for irrigation, which requires less purification. One treatment plant designed to supply irrigation water would potentially save the community large sums of money over time.
Our water infrastructure is aging, and the cost of bringing it into the 21st century would cost roughly $1 trillion to fully update every system with all necessary improvements. Drewes and his team are working on solutions that will cost less and save more, but it may require unconventional wisdom to really cure our water woes.