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Corporate & Environmental Stewardship and Cost Reduction to Drive Resource Recovery and Reuse
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Rapid population growth and continued urbanisation in Australia are driving wastewater and solid waste volumes up. As a result, the traditional wastewater treatment methods are reaching system-constraint limits and are raising important economic, social, and environmental concerns. Water scarcity, changing hydrological conditions, and increasing costs of energy to transport, treat, and manage waste streams are driving the need for innovative solutions in both the water and resource recovery sectors to do things differently. This calls for a new approach to understand recovery or reuse benefits and risks. Corporate values / sustainability targets (and the need to reduce environmental impact) and cost reduction are the most common drivers of resource recovery and reuse. There is also the attraction of creating potentially new revenue streams and increased interest from commercial and industrial customers facing higher water, energy and waste management costs. However, strict regulation in terms of the reuse of biosolids, the lack of government subsidies, an overall resistance to change and technological challenges remain significant barriers. There is also the challenge of handling a range of emerging contaminants and pollutants. In addition, high capital costs and high transportation costs negatively impact the viability of planned resource recovery or reuse projects. This is especially a challenge with small-scale or remote water utilities who find it difficult to get recovered products to market at a competitive price. In terms of technologies, Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) and energy generation through various anaerobic digestion methods are the main areas of focus. Multinational companies are the main technology / solution providers, while research institutions are also involved in delivering wastewater resource recovery and reuse technologies. Key competitive tools for the resource recovery and reuse solutions industry include expertise in resource recovery and reuse, proven financial strength (for large operations & maintenance contracts), scale and capabilities in the water and wastewater sector, and a strong safety record (and risk management record). The use of decentralised recovery / treatment systems, increased partnership with industrial sites and improved co-digestion will present significant growth opportunities for the sector moving forward. This study analyses wastewater resource recovery and reuse approaches in terms of water recycling, biosolids and nutrient recovery and energy recovery. Based on interviews with select water utilities in Australia, this study explores current perceptions, practices, and projects. The recovery and reuse solution provider landscape is also mapped and a scan of global trends is included. Finally, key growth opportunities are identified.
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