This report has examined key challenges and opportunities for water reuse as an approach to meet the nation’s future water needs, and research will be needed to address many of the challenges ahead. In this chapter, the committee identifies key research needs that are not currently being addressed in a major way. These research areas hold significant potential to advance the safe, reliable, and cost-effective reuse of municipal wastewater where traditional sources are inadequate. This chapter also includes a discussion of the current roles of federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in supporting reuse-related research, because these same entities could play a role in supporting the committee-identified research needs.
In the committee’s review of a wide range of issues affecting the application of nonpotable and potable reuse, the committee did not identify any technological hurdles that were holding back the application of reuse to address local water supply needs. In fact, in its review of water reclamation technologies (see Chapter 4), the committee found the state of technology to be quite advanced, with room for improvements but no major limitations to their use. However, additional research could enhance the performance and quality assurance of existing processes and help address public concerns over the safety of reuse to human health and the environment.
Overall, the committee organized the proposed 14 priority research areas within two broad categories:
1. Health, social, and environmental issues
2. Performance and quality assurance
The topics are identified in Box 11-1 and are described in more detail in this chapter. The issues are not listed in order of priority.
Human Health, Social, and Environmental Issues
1. Quantify the extent of de facto (or unplanned) potable reuse in the United States.
Although population density has increased substantially in parts of the country with limited water resources, a systematic analysis of the contribution of municipal wastewater effluent to potable water supplies has not been made in the United States for over 30 years. The lack of such data impedes efforts to identify the significance and potential health impacts of de facto water reuse. Because new water reuse projects could decrease the volume of wastewater discharged to water sources where de facto reuse is being practiced, the lack of understanding of the contribution of wastewater effluent to water supplies restricts our ability to assess the net impact of future water reuse on the nation’s water resource portfolio. Available hydrological modeling and monitoring tools would enable an accurate assessment of de facto water reuse. Ideally, these efforts would take advantage of existing monitoring networks (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] streamflow gauging stations), data on wastewater effluent discharges submitted by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Sys-
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11 Research Needs This report has examined key challenges and op- 1. Health, social, and environmental issues portunities for water reuse as an approach to meet the 2. Performance and quality assurance nation’s future water needs, and research will be needed to address many of the challenges ahead. In this chap- The topics are identified in Box 11-1 and are described ter, the committee identifies key research needs that in more detail in this chapter. The issues are not listed are not currently being addressed in a major way. These in order of priority. research areas hold significant potential to advance the safe, reliable, and cost-effective reuse of municipal Human Health, Social, and Environmental Issues wastewater where traditional sources are inadequate. This chapter also includes a discussion of the current 1. Quantify the extent of de facto (or unplanned) potable roles of federal agencies and nongovernmental organi- reuse in the United States. zations (NGOs) in supporting reuse-related research, because these same entities could play a role in support- Although population density has increased sub- ing the committee-identified research needs. stantially in parts of the country with limited water resources, a systematic analysis of the contribution of municipal wastewater effluent to potable water supplies RESEARCH PRIORITIES has not been made in the United States for over 30 In the committee’s review of a wide range of issues years. The lack of such data impedes efforts to identify affecting the application of nonpotable and potable the significance and potential health impacts of de facto reuse, the committee did not identify any technologi- water reuse. Because new water reuse projects could cal hurdles that were holding back the application of decrease the volume of wastewater discharged to water reuse to address local water supply needs. In fact, in its sources where de facto reuse is being practiced, the lack review of water reclamation technologies (see Chapter of understanding of the contribution of wastewater ef- 4), the committee found the state of technology to be fluent to water supplies restricts our ability to assess the quite advanced, with room for improvements but no net impact of future water reuse on the nation’s water major limitations to their use. However, additional resource portfolio. Available hydrological modeling and research could enhance the performance and quality monitoring tools would enable an accurate assessment assurance of existing processes and help address public of de facto water reuse. Ideally, these efforts would take concerns over the safety of reuse to human health and advantage of existing monitoring networks (e.g., U.S. the environment. Geological Survey [USGS] streamflow gauging sta- Overall, the committee organized the proposed tions), data on wastewater effluent discharges submit- 14 priority research areas within two broad categories: ted by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Sys- 193
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194 WATER REUSE tem permit holders, and hydrological models developed BOX 11-1 to study watersheds with historical concerns about the Summary of Research Priorities impact of effluent discharges on water quality. These efforts could be updated periodically (e.g., every 5 to 10 These research areas hold significant potential to advance years) to provide decision makers with an understand- the safe, reliable, and cost-effective reuse of municipal waste- ing of the role of de facto reuse in the nation’s potable water where traditional sources are inadequate. They are not water supply. Furthermore, an improved understanding prioritized here. of de facto potable reuse could spur the development Health, Social, and Environmental Issues and/or application of contaminant prediction tools or lead to enhanced monitoring programs that could 1. Quantify the extent of de facto (or unplanned) potable increase public health protection. reuse in the United States. 2. Address critical gaps in the understanding of health impacts of human exposure to constituents in reclaimed water. 2. Address critical gaps in the understanding of health 3. Enhance methods for assessing the human health impacts of human exposure to constituents in reclaimed effects of chemical mixtures and unknowns. 4. Strengthen waterborne disease surveillance, investi- water. gation methods, governmental response infrastructure, and Potential health impacts resulting from long-term, epidemiological research tools and capacity. 5. Assess the potential impacts of environmental applica- low-level exposure to chemicals and mixtures of chemi- tions of reclaimed water in sensitive ecological communities. cals present in wastewater effluent have yet to be fully 6. Quantify the nonmonetized costs and benefits of elucidated. It would be expensive and time-consuming potable and nonpotable water reuse compared with other to conduct batteries of in vitro and in vivo toxicity stud- water supply sources to enhance water management decision ies on all of the different chemicals in reclaimed water. making. However, a carefully planned research effort would be 7. Examine the public acceptability of engineered mul- tiple barriers compared with environmental buffers for potable useful to inform future decisions about potable water reuse. reuse. In particular, there is a need to fill in data gaps in existing toxicological databases with respect to con- Treatment Efficiency and Quality Assurance taminants that are known to occur in wastewater and 8. Develop a better understanding of contaminant attenu- persist in the environment and are refractory in water ation in environmental buffers. reclamation and water treatment processes. The risk 9. Develop a better understanding of the formation of exemplar (Chapter 7) highlights several of these chemi- hazardous transformation products during water treatment for cals, including nitrosamines, disinfection byproducts, reuse and ways to minimize or remove them. hormones, certain pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials, 10. Develop a better understanding of pathogen removal efficiencies and the variability of performance in various unit flame retardants, and perfluorochemicals. As noted in processes and multibarrier treatment and develop ways to Chapter 6, there is also a need to assess the importance optimize these processes. of indirect pathways of exposure to constituents in re- 11. Quantify the relationships between polymerase chain claimed water, such as bioaccumulation of trace organic reaction (PCR) detections and viable organisms in samples chemicals in food crops. at intermediate and final stages. 12. Develop improved techniques and data to consider hazardous events or system failures in risk assessment of 3. Enhance methods for assessing the human health effects water reuse. of chemical mixtures and unknowns. 13. Identify better indicators and surrogates that can be used to monitor process performance in reuse scenarios and Concerns about the health effects of unknown develop online real-time or near real-time analytical monitor- chemicals and contaminant mixtures remain a major ing techniques for their measurement. challenge in public and political acceptance of water 14. Analyze the need for new reuse approaches and tech- nology in future water management. reuse. Additional research is needed to further develop in vivo and in vitro bioassay methods that can be used to rapidly and selectively screen the product water from
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195 RESEARCH NEEDS water reclamation facilities for possible physiological although few have focused solely on purposeful restora- effects. Improved rapid bioassays could also help in the tion projects. The location and site-specific attributes prioritization of those chemicals, or chemical mixtures, associated with the restoration project will determine which may necessitate longer term in vivo testing. the extent of the research needs, but only through several site-specific analyses can the range of potential issues be fully understood. Conventional (e.g., whole 4. Strengthen waterborne disease surveillance, effluent toxicity) testing and risk paradigms are avail- investigation methods, governmental response able, but a need exists to further develop rapid screening infrastructure, and epidemiological research tools and methodologies. Research related to purposeful ecologi- capacity. cal enhancement with reclaimed water might lead to Despite the frequency of acute gastrointestinal more successful habitat restoration projects. infections (AGIs) worldwide and in the United States and public concern over chemical contamination of 6. Quantify the nonmonetized costs and benefits of public and private water supplies, the ability of the potable and nonpotable water reuse compared with other public health sector and the research community to water supply sources to enhance water management attribute disease to water consumption remains prob- decision making. lematic. Attributing waterborne disease outbreaks to a source or treatment practice will only become more When making major water management decisions difficult with the growing complexity of drinking and weighing various competing water supply alterna- water sources, including reclaimed water. There is no tives, communities and decision makers must evalu- national public health epidemiological research pro- ate many factors (e.g., life-cycle costs, environmental gram dedicated to tracking endemic water-associated costs and benefits, public acceptance, supply reliability, AGI community disease trends or comparative health water system independence) in addition to traditional impacts of differing water reuse patterns. There is little financial costs. However, a full understanding of these public health response capacity until disease reaches costs and benefits is rarely available. Quantification of epidemic outbreak status, when generic public health environmental costs and benefits, for example, should outbreak investigation resources become available. As include impacts on surface water flows and ecosystems, water reuse increases in scope and volume, methods and nutrients, and greenhouse gas emissions. Although expertise to determine whether AGIs are waterborne these costs and benefits are inherently site specific, a or whether community chronic health disparities are synthesis of such analyses across a number of facilities related to water reuse will be important to maintaining and conditions could inform broader discussions of public acceptance of reuse practices and should be the water management alternatives. Additionally, an evalu- focus of research partnerships. Disease and exposure ation of existing tools that planners and water managers surveillance tools, investigation practices, and human could use to integrate these various costs and benefits health outcomes research need to be improved and into overall project analysis would help support and strengthened. better inform water management decisions. 5. Assess the potential impacts of environmental 7. Examine the public acceptability of engineered multiple applications of reclaimed water in sensitive ecological barriers compared with environmental buffers for potable communities. reuse. Reclaimed water has many potential uses for habi- As described previously in this report, environmen- tat restoration, but a need exists to better understand tal buffers have been an important aspect of almost all the impact of wastewater-derived contaminants in successful potable reuse projects because of particular purposeful ecological enhancement projects. Many sci- functions they serve toward contaminant attenuation, entific studies of surface water impacts associated with retention, and/or blending (see Chapter 5) and be- municipal effluent discharges have been undertaken, cause some buffers (e.g., groundwater injection) serve
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196 WATER REUSE to disassociate reclaimed water from its source in the enhancing the safety of water reuse scenarios, including minds of the public (see Chapter 10). However, from de facto reuse. a technical perspective, the public health protection that natural systems provide is often not well defined. 10. Develop a better understanding of pathogen removal Recent research has shown that engineered barriers efficiencies and the variability of performance in various can provide equivalent or superior levels of protection unit processes and multibarrier treatment and develop compared with some environmental buffers currently ways to optimize these processes. in use. Research is needed to understand the public acceptability of engineered buffers compared with en- Because health effects can result from a single ex- vironmental buffers used for potable reuse. posure to a pathogen, the variability in pathogen occur- rence and removal during wastewater reclamation and distribution processes should be better understood to Treatment Efficiency and Quality Assurance capture the overall variability in exposure and risk. Data developed from careful monitoring across processes in 8. Develop a better understanding of contaminant full-scale installations and showing the variations in attenuation in environmental buffers. pathogen densities over time would serve as an impor- tant database for project design. Because low levels of Research on how well different environmental buf- pathogens remain toward the end of treatment, indica- fers function under various conditions, their potential tor organism monitoring may be needed to assess the weaknesses, and their impacts on water quality is crucial variability in pathogen removal. Research is needed to to the optimization of potable reuse systems and future better understand how changes in process design and decisions about their design. Some researchers have operation affect the removal of pathogens (and indica- examined the performance of soil aquifer treatment tors) to develop more efficient ways to reduce risks from systems in the southwestern United States, but the microorganisms in treatment systems. performance of such systems under other hydrogeo- logical conditions is poorly understood. Information on contaminant attenuation in wetlands, rivers, and 11. Quantify the relationships between polymerase chain reservoirs is also lacking. reaction detections and infectious organisms in samples at intermediate and final stages. 9. Develop a better understanding of the formation With the increasing use of molecular biological of hazardous transformation products during water methods such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction treatment for reuse and ways to minimize or remove (qPCR) for pathogen enumeration in environmental them. samples, occurrence data are being obtained in terms of genome copies per unit water volume (e.g., gc/L). As described in Chapter 3, wastewater contains a However, for risk assessment, dose-response relation- rich mixture of organic constituents, and during dis- ships are generally based on number of viable pathogens infection and other treatment processes, some hazard- (e.g., colony-forming units, plaque-forming units) in a ous transformation products are formed. Continued dose. The percentage of genome copies that represent research is needed to understand the precursors of viable (or infectious) units is likely to degrade during hazardous transformation products and how precursor treatment and exposure to the environment, especially chemicals can be better managed to reduce the forma- during exposure to oxidizing disinfectants. Therefore, tion of hazardous chemicals. N-Nitrosodimethylamine to use qPCR data with more confidence in risk assess- (NDMA) is a particularly challenging disinfection by- ments of pathogens and in the control of advanced product that merits additional research, because it poses treatment systems, reliable data on the ratio and vari- a risk for cancer at very low concentrations (0.7 ng/L) ability in the ratio of genome copies/viable pathogens and potable reuse projects frequently require expensive are needed for various types of waters (e.g., source, and energy-intensive additional treatment to remove it. partially treated, completely treated). Alternatively, Research on transformation products is important for
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197 RESEARCH NEEDS another means is needed for quantifying infectious microorganisms, could reduce the post-treatment stor- pathogens that cannot be grown in conventional media. age capacity needed to ensure quality in potable reuse projects and could reduce the extent of contamination and potentially the exposure duration in the event of 12. Develop improved techniques and data to consider process failures. hazardous events or system failures in risk assessment of water reuse. 14. Analyze the need for new reuse approaches and The committee developed its risk exemplar to technology in future water management. compare the relative risks of conventional and a de facto water reuse scenarios (see Chapter 7), but this A review of the history of wastewater management analysis did not consider the impacts of hazardous in the United States (see Chapter 2) reveals that water events (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, disease outbreaks) reuse began as a strategy to dispose of large volumes of or major equipment failures. Ideally, risk assessments liquid waste generated in densely populated areas. More would address these factors and include techniques recently, reuse also has evolved to address local water for quantitative analysis of both the likelihood and demands, but largely working within the framework consequences of specific hazardous events in order to of an existing wastewater infrastructure designed in quantify the risks. However, the data to support such an the early to mid-20th century. These existing waste- analysis are not widely available. Improved techniques water infrastructure designs constrain water reuse in a and data could also facilitate increased incorporation of number of ways. The strategy of draining wastewater quality assurance strategies into treatment plant design from urban areas by gravity and managing water qual- and operation (see Chapter 5). Additionally, the level ity at the point of discharge to a receiving stream has of quality assurance necessary for public health protec- favored the establishment of large centralized waste- tion needs to be better defined so that potable reuse water treatment plants. The location of these treatment systems can be designed to provide it, with or without plants limits the options for water reuse because large environmental buffers. dedicated conveyance systems are costly and difficult to implement in existing urban settings, particularly when potential users are not located close to water reclama- 13. Identify better indicators and surrogates that can be tion facilities. An additional constraint on reuse is that used to monitor process performance in reuse scenarios and only one quality of effluent is typically produced from develop online real-time or near real-time monitoring wastewater treatment plants, even though potential techniques for their measurement. users may have widely ranging quality requirements. It remains impractical to use direct measurements Considering existing treatment train designs and site of most contaminants to assess actual performance of constraints, many of these existing wastewater treat- individual processes and process sequences. Therefore, ment plants are not easily adaptable to the production development and application of surrogate and/or in- of high-quality reclaimed water for reuse. Meanwhile, dicator measurements (see Chapter 5) are needed that core elements of the infrastructure that embeds both could be used to assess the performance of individual water and wastewater treatment, storage, and convey- water reclamation processes. Indicators are individual ance were developed and designed during a time of in- chemicals or microorganisms that represent the char- expensive energy, smaller urban populations, and little acteristics of other trace organic contaminants or appreciation of the need for aquatic habitat protection microorganisms of concern, particularly their removal and control of greenhouse gas emissions (Daigger, through the specific process(es) where they are mea- 2009). The interdependency of water and energy has sured. A surrogate is a quantifiable change of a bulk been mostly neglected, and the existing water infra- parameter that can be continuously monitored and that structure is rather energy intensive (e.g., water con- correlates with contaminant removal. Development veyance systems, need for pumping, energy-intensive of real-time or near-real time monitoring techniques, treatment processes). particularly for contaminants with acute effects, such as Many of these water and wastewater systems are
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198 WATER REUSE now reaching the end of their design life, and EPA has decades to come, while contributing to efficient use of estimated that between $320 billion and $450 billion water and energy resources. will need to be invested in wastewater infrastructure between 2002 and 2020 in the United States. Estimates FEDERAL AND NONFEDERAL ROLES of capital needs for drinking water infrastructure range from $178 billion to $475 billion (EPA, 2002). Thus, As the nation seeks to meet its water needs through questions arise as to whether the water and wastewater new water supply approaches, such as water reuse, Con- infrastructure of the future will be (or should be) vastly gress and the executive branch are increasingly asking different from that of today, and if so, what is the role what the federal government role should be (Cody and of water reuse? Although this question is beyond the Carter, 2010). At present, as discussed in Chapter 10, scope of the committee’s charge, there are several im- the federal presence is primarily directed toward regu- portant questions based on future population scenarios lation of wastewater discharges, injection of reclaimed and future water and wastewater infrastructure designs, water, and regulation of drinking water. Various reuse whose answers will affect research priorities and the projects have benefited from federal funding, perhaps generation of future technologies. through Title XVI (see Box 9-1), which is generally limited to the 17 western continental states, or as ear- • What are the water quality implications of marks in congressional budgets. The federal EPA has expanded reuse, including de facto reuse, under future administered programs for funding municipal waste- population scenarios,1 considering that contributions water treatment facilities in the past, and administers of wastewater in receiving streams are likely to increase a revolving loan fund for these purposes. The question under current population projections and migration of the appropriateness of federal funding for water sup- trends? ply projects is currently being debated in Congress and • What are the implications of increased water the administration of the executive branch (Cody and conservation on the potential contribution of water Carter, 2010) and is not a question that this commit- reuse, and how will the likely associated increase in tee is appropriately constituted to resolve. Instead, the salinity and other effects on water quality affect water committee reviewed the research programs supported reuse applications? by both federal and nonfederal entities and discusses • What are the water budget implications of vari- in this section appropriate roles to address the above ous types of reuse, considering growing urban centers? research needs. • How can future water reclamation plants be designed (or existing plants upgraded) to better take Federal Agency Reuse Research advantage of potential opportunities for water reuse? • What advances in technology are needed to sup- There is no single lead federal agency on water port reuse to address future water needs? reuse–related research. Seven federal agencies provide • What is the role of distributed wastewater treat- at least some research funding for water reuse: the U.S. ment and reuse in future water management? Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), USGS, EPA, the U.S. • What technologies can be applied to water rec- Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for lamation so that new plants can recover energy and use Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Depart- resources most efficiently? ment of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additional research is needed to address these ques- tions so that water reuse facilities constructed during USBR this decade can provide appropriate benefits in the USBR is the only federal agency with a specific directive to address water reuse–related issues, and it provides the largest amount of funding for water re- 1 It is estimated that by 2030, 86% of the U.S. population will use–related research via several programs. In particular, live in urban centers (U.S. Census, 2008).
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199 RESEARCH NEEDS USGS between 2000 and 2011, the USBR provided $17 mil- lion in research funding to the WateReuse Research USGS maintains an extensive water research pro- Foundation, through the Title XVI program (see gram although there is no specific water reuse–related Box 9-1), which was used to support research projects directive within the agency. Three areas of ongoing and workshops on microbial and trace organic contami- research with relevance to water reuse include the Wa- nants, treatment technologies, salinity management, ter Census, aquifer storage and recovery (ASR), and and social and institutional issues such as public percep- wastewater-derived chemicals in the aquatic environ- tion, economics, and marketing. Additional programs, ment. The Water Census is an updated and expanded such as the Secure Water Act (Public Law [P.L.] 111- approach to prior efforts by USGS to account for water 11, Subtitle F, enacted in 2009), which was intended supplies and water use in the United States, includ- to “accelerate the adoption and use of advanced water ing precipitation, evaporation, groundwater recharge, treatment technologies to increase water supply,” the storage, water withdrawals, consumptive uses, return Rural Water Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-451), and the Wa- flows, and ecological needs. ASR research under way ter Desalination Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-298), provide seeks to understand changing geochemistry associated some support for reuse-related research. The USBR with subsurface storage of water (which may or may estimates that approximately 5 percent of the research not include reclaimed water). USGS has also conducted projects funded under the Water Desalination Act were extensive research on the occurrence of human-use specifically targeted toward water reuse, although some compounds in the nation’s surface waters and has the of the desalination research has relevance to reuse ap- measurement capabilities to detect an extensive ar- plications (C. Brown, USBR, personal communication, ray of human-use compounds in water and sediment. 2009; Kevin Price, USBR, personal communication, Research is currently under way to better understand 2011). the occurrence, pathways, uptake, and effects of these human-derived contaminants ( J. Bales, USGS, per- EPA sonal communication, 2010). EPA has many ongoing efforts that are relevant USDA to reuse, although like most of the federal agencies discussed in this section, the agency has no specific In recent years, USDA has developed a strong directive driving research in water reuse. Water reuse, interest in water reuse as a means to provide reliable however, is relevant to many of the agency’s cross- supplies of water for irrigation in areas where water is cutting interests—particularly at the nexus of water scarce. They have cosponsored two conferences (2007, availability and water quality. EPA has an extensive 2008) with the WateReuse Research Foundation on research program on human health effects of chemicals Agricultural Water Reuse, and starting in 2007 began (using screening and laboratory studies) and pathogens funding research on water reuse in agriculture. Through (using epidemiological data). Through the Unregulated its National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) program has distributed grants for research on minimizing described in Chapter 10, EPA supports research on food safety hazards, understanding pharmaceuticals analytical methods, monitoring, and treatment efficacy and hormones in agricultural production, impacts of and conducts extensive data analysis on the occurrence reclaimed water on plants and soils, treatment meth- of contaminants. It supports research to understand the ods to prevent impacts to soils, and long-term effects human health and environmental effects of endocrine- of irrigating with reclaimed water. It is also collecting disrupting chemicals at environmentally relevant con- information on the extent of the use of reclaimed water centrations. Research is also under way on pathogen in irrigation in an annual inventory of farms conducted monitoring, sampling, and analysis (A. Levine, EPA, by its National Agricultural Statistics Service ( J. Do- personal communication, 2010). browolski, USDA, personal communication, 2010).
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200 WATER REUSE CDC ecology, urban studies, economics, and law. The center is funded with $18.5M over the next 5 years. Although CDC has no specific directive in water reuse, the agency is interested in the issues from a Other Federal Interests in Reuse number of perspectives, particularly in its National Center for Environmental Health and its Division of Several federal agencies have interests in reuse, Emergency and Environmental Health Services. CDC although they are not currently sponsoring research has supported two research efforts on the subject: an to support it. For example, the U.S. Agency for Inter- analysis of reuse as a means to protect human health national Development (USAID) has major interests during drought conditions and a research project in water management and in water and sanitation for to enhance capacity to investigate the link between health in developing countries. USAID has sponsored wastewater, groundwater contamination, and human projects to implement nonpotable water reuse projects health (M. Zarate-Bermudez, CDC, personal com- in Morocco and Jordon. It anticipates that water reuse munication, 2010). will become an increasingly important part of water management in water-poor nations, particularly as part DOE of efforts to enhance food security during droughts ( J. Franckiewicz, USAID, personal communication, DOE’s National Energy Technology Labora - 2010). Large military installations of the Department tory is conducting research on ways to reduce water of Defense may have their own wastewater treatment demand associated with energy production. Specific plants and may practice nonpotable reuse to maximize to municipal wastewater reuse, DOE is conducting their available water resources. research on the technical issues associated with using reclaimed wastewater for power plant cooling, on costs NGO-Sponsored Research and benefits of various levels of reclaimed water treat- ment, and analyses of ongoing use of reclaimed water WateReuse Research Foundation for this purpose. The mission of the WateReuse Research Founda- NSF tion is to conduct and promote applied research on the reuse, reclamation, recycling, and desalination of water. NSF sponsors approximately 20 percent of the The foundation provides $2–$4 million per year to sup- water resources research in the United States (NRC, port research, with a significant portion coming from 2004), although it has no specific funding emphasis on the USBR through the Title XVI program. Between water reuse. However, water reuse-related research may 2000 and 2011, the WateReuse Research Foundation be funded under related initiatives or under a new ini- used the $17 million funding from USBR to leverage tiative on water sustainability and climate. For example, $41 million in research, through additional contribu- improved technology for water reuse is a focal area for tions from state and local agencies, the private sector, an NSF-funded center on water treatment technology universities, and others (K. Price, USBR, personal (the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purifica- communication, 2011). Supported research categories tion of Water with Systems [WaterCAMPWS]) (B. include policy and social sciences, microbiology and Hamilton, NSF, personal communication, 2010).2 NSF disinfection, chemistry and toxicology, and treatment has also recently funded an engineering research center technologies. They also conduct periodic analysis of on reinventing the nation’s urban water infrastructure research needs in the area of water reuse (W. Miller, (ReNWUIt) that will bring together researchers from WateReuse Research Foundation, personal communi- environmental engineering, earth sciences, hydrology, cation, 2010). 2 See http://www.watercampws.uiuc.edu/.
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201 RESEARCH NEEDS Water Research Foundation of stormwater and greywater (D. Woltering, WERF, personal communication, 2010). The Water Research Foundation (formerly known as the American Water Works Association Research Coordination to Support Needed Research Foundation) is a member-supported NGO established to support applied research related to drinking water. The research needs identified in Box 11-1 cannot Although reuse-specific projects represent a small be addressed by a single organization or agency, because fraction of their overall research portfolio, the Water collectively, they rely on expertise that is distributed Research Foundation has sponsored research on SAT among agencies and universities. However, the agen- in water reuse projects. The foundation has recently cies and NGOs with interest in reuse could collectively committed up to $1 million per year for at least 5 years work to address these research needs, with improved to research on trace organic contaminants (e.g., phar- coordination. As described in the previous sections, at maceuticals, personal care products) in drinking water, least seven federal agencies and three NGOs are con- including assessment of exposure, improvements in ducting or supporting research related to water reuse. analytical methods, and improved frameworks for risk Of these, two federal agencies (USBR and EPA) and communication for utilities (S. Cline, Water Research the NGOs represent the lead contributors to water Foundation, personal communication, 2009). reuse–related research. This speaks to the need for improved coordination to see that these research needs National Water Research Institute are addressed. Under the current research funding framework, The National Water Research Institute (NWRI) the bulk of the water reuse research is focused on supports scientific research and outreach efforts related near-term research priorities, largely dominated by to ensuring clean and reliable water. NWRI has six particular agency interests or issues of concern to the member organizations, all based in Southern Califor- NGOs’ subscribers. The NGOs have limited resources nia, with strong interests and vast ongoing efforts in with which to address long-term (~5-year) research water reuse. Since its founding in 1991, NWRI has efforts. In the past, the Joint Water Reuse and De- invested over $17 million in research. Funded research salination Task Force, an alliance of the USBR, Sandia topics have included disinfection guidelines for water National Laboratories, and research organizations with reuse, the fate and transport of trace organic contami- interests in desalination and water reuse, was used to nants, subsurface transport of bacteria and viruses, and pool research funding toward longer term research use of bioassays and monitoring to assess trace con- investments, improving coordination, and reducing taminant removal in water reuse.3 redundancy, although the group is not as active as it once was. The Global Water Research Coalition Water Environment Research Foundation (GWRC), a collaboration between 12 research orga- nizations around the globe, including organizations The Water Environment Research Foundation from Singapore, Australia, France, and the United ( WERF) is a subscriber-based organization focused on States (WERF and the Water Research Foundation), wastewater- and stormwater-related research. In gen- with partnership from EPA, serves a similar function eral, WERF applies only a small portion of its research from an international perspective. The GWRC aims funding to projects that are directly focused on the reuse to leverage funding and expertise toward water quality of municipal wastewater, but it has funded studies on research of global interest. Both groups, if active, could public perception of water reuse and attenuation of assist with coordination and leveraging resources to ac- trace organic contaminants in landscape irrigation. The complish the needed research. organization is also interested in research on the reuse Among federal agencies, water resources research is spread among numerous agencies, based on specific issues (e.g., quality [EPA], quantity [USBR], energy [DOE]) (NRC, 2004), but water scarcity concerns 3 See http://www.nwri-usa.org/researchprogram.htm.
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202 WATER REUSE call for a closer coordination of federal efforts. Thus, the areas of human health, social, and environmental the intergovernmental Subcommittee on Water Avail- issues, and treatment efficiency and quality assurance ability and Quality (SWAQ) was formed under the ex- hold significant potential to advance the safe, reliable, ecutive branch’s Committee on Environment, Natural and cost-effective reuse of municipal wastewater where Resources, and Sustainability (CENRS).4 SWAQ is traditional sources are inadequate. Improved coordination among federal and non- chartered to “facilitate communication and coordina- federal entities is important for addressing the long- tion among federal agencies and representatives from term research needs related to water reuse. Address- nonfederal sectors on issues of science, technology, and policy related to water availability and quality.” Addi- ing the research needs identified in Box 11-1 will tionally, SWAQ is charged to periodically assess “pri- require the involvement of several federal agencies as orities for research and development of systems related well as support from nongovernmental research organi- to enhancement of water supplies,” advise the CENRS zations. Several mechanisms could be used to enhance on additional research needs, and develop coordinated the coordination of reuse research, minimize duplica- plans to provide the needed research (SWAQ charter tion, and leverage limited resources. A past example provided in NRC, 2004). Thus far, SWAQ has not been that could be built upon is the Joint Water Reuse and used to coordinate federal efforts on reuse research, Desalination Task Force. Additionally, the SWAQ, but federal leadership will be needed if the issues and which is chartered to facilitate coordination among obstacles to water reuse are to be addressed. federal agencies, could be used to enhance coordination of federal water-reuse-related research. If the federal government decides to develop CONCLUSIONS national regulations for water reuse, a more robust The committee identified 14 water reuse research research effort will be needed to support that initiative priorities (see Box 11-1) that are not currently being with enhanced coordination among federal and non- addressed in a major way. These research priorities in federal entities. Such an effort would benefit from the leadership of a single federal agency, which could serve 4 The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sus- as the primary entity for coordination of research and tainability reports to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s for information dissemination. National Science and Technology Council.