Eleanor Raper, Senior Geoscientist, attended the International Water Association Leading Edge Technology (IWA LET 2019) conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies last week. The LET draws together both academic and industrial participants from around the world to address the leading issues in water and wastewater including increasingly stringent regulations, growing populations, the search for sustainable solutions and the impact of climate change.
The first day of the conference consisted of a series of interactive workshops which considered hot topics including developments in the field of microplastics, Dissolved Organic Carbon in water, engineering biology, granular activated sludge, digitalisation in the water sector and how to bring leading edge technologies into the market. The workshops enabled participants to expand their knowledge and discuss key ideas and concepts in an open-discussion environment. Day two of the conference consisted of a number of plenary sessions with inspirational talks from key stakeholders including Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform who emphasised that “Scotland cannot flourish without a flourishing water sector”. She highlighted the importance that even in a country known for its vast quantities of water, the impact of climate change on water availability cannot be ignored. A panel discussion rounded up the day and considered how generational experience should be integrated with millennial communication technology.
Two days of technical sessions covered a diverse range of topics split into a drinking water track and a wastewater track. Within the wastewater field there was a keen focus on emerging contaminants including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, microplastics and antibiotic resistance. Increased awareness of the impacts of these emerging contaminants is leading in a need for rapid advancements in treatment methods and developments in analysis methods.
Of key importance is that wastewaters are now being considered as valuable resources. With increased water pressures, we can no longer continue to discard large quantities of water. Michael Flynn from NASA spoke of the development work carried out by NASA to close the loop on the water cycle, enabling complete treatment of wastewater to drinking water standards – an essential requirement for space travel. Of course, this research feeds knowledge in systems that can be used in water scarce countries. Furthermore, there were a number of really interesting conversations surrounding ongoing work on the nano membrane toilet and the challenges that are faced with developing a toilet capable of converting human waste to usable water without the need for external energy or water. The technology has the potential to bring access to safe and hygienic facilities to 2.3 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe sanitation whilst making better use of valuable water resources in water scarce environments.
Additionally, a number of sessions tackled the importance of harnessing available nutrients in wastewater. Whilst emerging contaminants are problematic in wastewater streams due to the potential damaging effects, they may have on the receiving environment the presence of microcontaminants in drinking waters are of equal concern with sessions aimed at exploring developments in microcontaminant control. Disinfection is another essential requirement for drinking water with attention being paid to novel disinfection techniques, the importance of considering disinfection by-products.
The conference provided great insight into the work being carried out to tackle water-related issues. The main take-aways were:
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