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23 july 2019

Wastewater: four quick steps to evaluate the reuse option

Reuse and recycling options for produced water in industry have become more affordable, available and… essential. The favorable factors include a political climate more open to reuse, the need to restrict freshwater use, and the arrival of sophisticated technologies for treating and reusing water.

As produced water nowadays represents a real resource for industry, the options to economically justify its reuse merit an in-depth examination. Laura Slansky*, a health and environment engineer in the energy sector in the United States, offers an analysis.
A thorough periodic examination of reuse options is all the more judicious given that produced water’s parameters are constantly changing: what reuse is locally available? What requirements does this reuse involve? What water quality is available in the field?
An operator must make a host of decisions to narrow down the type of reuse envisaged. To do so, they must first analyze the water’s lifecycle: resources used, material processed, transportation costs, human factors, and waste produced. This four-step process offers a good foundation:

  • 1st step: evaluate wastewater quality, determining its physical and chemical characteristics and its volume, using a sampling plan throughout the field.

  • 2nd step: review the water quality results and then determine a series of reuse options, starting with those requiring minimal treatment: crop or golf course irrigation, watering for pad reclamation, etc.

  • 3rd and most complicated step: determine the costs for reuse, despite the variations in wastewater volume and its chemical composition. Freshwater supply costs — a determining comparative factor in a reuse/recycling plan — are the starting point.

  • 4th step: estimate the regulatory, environmental and social impacts of reuse. Regulator participation? Creation of other air, water or waste problems? Measurable social impacts of recycling (noise, traffic, etc.)?

Economic considerations generally form the basis of any reuse decision. However, preparing a reuse viability study in anticipation of a freshwater shortage or a disposal problem (micropollutants, etc.) will keep the operator one step ahead when it comes to adapting to change.

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