The Water Utility Of The Future

The wastewater utility of the future contemplates a new business model.  Instead of simply collecting, treating, and disposing of municipal and industrial wastewater, the utility of the future re-imagines itself as an integral component of the local economy, ecology, and social community.  Its objectives are to separate, extract, or convert valuable commodities from wastewater to reduce costs to households and businesses, improve the quality of surrounding ecosystem, and deliver economic value to the local economy.

This is not a future aspiration.  With the help of technology developers, innovative wastewater utilities are beginning to take these steps today.   They are becoming more energy efficient, recovering energy from biosolids, reusing effluent and biosolids, recovering a wide range of commodities, transforming waste streams into valuable new commodities, and taking steps to support economic expansion by setting capital investment priorities to meet the needs of industry.  In so doing, utilities are reducing costs and finding new sources of revenue.   Savings are passed back to the community in the form of mitigated rate increases and investments in community welfare.  The environment also is a net beneficiary.  And, so is the local and in many cases, the nation economy.    Reduced costs and increased revenues passed back to households and businesses create more disposable income, which can be reinvested in local goods and services.   Capital can be freed up for reinvestment in plant and equipment as well as research and development.   Part of this investment ends up creating new jobs in the technology and manufacturing sectors, which creates demand for new housing and other goods.  As a result, governments enjoy growing tax receipts.   Nationally, energy savings reduces imports and supports a healthier balance of trade.

Click here for a more detailed presentation of the Water Utility of the Future by Dr. Kenneth Rubin at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ Spring 2012 Policy and Legislative Conference in Washington DC.