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Exploring sustainable water treatment solutions

Today, it’s no longer enough for water treatment plants to meet minimum health and safety requirements for drinking water and wastewater quality. To be truly sustainable, utilities must consider their carbon footprint, impact on the environment and increasing access to underserved communities. Choosing the right water treatment solutions plays a key role in this.

Exploring sustainable water treatment solutions

In general, water treatment methods can be separated into physical, biological, chemical, and physico-chemical methods. Physical methods are separation of solid impurities and coarse and fine particles from water using techniques such as screening, filtration, centrifugation, flotation, and membrane technologies. Biological methods are based on microorganisms that consume the pollutants in the water in order to maintain their vital activity. Chemical treatment implies conducting chemical reactions with pollutants – for example oxidation, reduction, or precipitation – to achieve the desired effect. Physico-chemical water treatment combines both chemical and physical treatment, for example chemical coagulation and flocculation followed by a separation step.

Chemical treatment is a well-established, safe, and effective process suitable for removing a wide variety of contaminants from water. Moreover, it is very cost and energy efficient compared to other methods. Kemira offers 100 years of chemistry and application expertise to solve challenges related to water treatment.

Read about sustainable water treatment solutions in our Water Handbook.

Sustainability means creating an equitable society for people today and protecting resources for future generations. It’s about achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including  SDG 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Solutions for clean drinking water

Generally speaking, the water that most people drink comes from two places: groundwater or surface water. Desalination is also an option, but less common.

Both groundwater and surface water contain impurities that present risks to human health and affect aesthetic characteristics like taste and odor. Chemical precipitation is the treatment method used for the removal of undesirable substances, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites from water.

Kemira’s comprehensive guide to water treatment, the Water Handbook, explains the treatment process step-by-step including which mechanical, chemical and biological solutions are best suited for removing undesirable substances to enable clean water and a sustainable water cycle.

Corrosion is another area of concern when it comes to sustainability. Cost-conscious municipalities often face aging infrastructure including metal pipes that are prone to corrosion.  Solutions that minimize corrosion help infrastructure last longer. Perhaps more importantly, they also reduce the risk of iron or copper leeching into drinking water.

There is another significant benefit of sustainable municipal drinking water management that is worth noting: when people trust their tap water, they reach for bottled water less often. In a world that struggles with single-use plastics, cutting down on bottled water is an environmental win.

Currently, more than 80% of the wastewater produced globally is discharged back into rivers and seas without any treatment.

Treating wastewater sustainably

After people use water it must be treated before it returns to natural waterways. Currently, more than 80% of the wastewater produced globally is discharged back into rivers and seas without any treatment, so there is plenty of opportunity to make this part of the water cycle more efficient and sustainable.

Cleaning wastewater of any kind first requires understanding its composition and particle-size distribution. From there, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) can identify the right mix of mechanical processes, chemical water treatment and biological solutions, ideally guided by predictive modeling, dosing optimization and other digital solutions, such as the Kemira KemConnect™ smart process management tools.

But removing contaminants isn’t enough. For a truly sustainable approach, WWTPs must look at the big picture and consider how their own carbon footprint contributes to climate change. After all, wastewater treatment is very energy intensive.

Biological processes typically account for about 50% of a WWTP’s energy use. Chemistry is a good solution for energy-use reduction, especially chemical pre-treatment before biological treatment steps. Chemistry speeds up the same processes that would happen in nature. The result is a more efficient process, generating less CO2 and cost savings.

Taking the next steps on sustainability

There are many ways to future-proof water treatment processes, and we’re happy to share our expertise. Kemira works with water treatment utilities around the world to deliver sustainable water treatment technologies that support SDG 6 and global climate goals.

Download our Water Handbook, the ultimate reference guide for water treatment professionals who are committed to sustainable development.

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