Innovation

Celebrating World Water Day 2017

Every year on March 22, the United Nations recognizes World Water Day, an international observance and opportunity to learn more about water-related issues and to inspire action to change our water future.

Every year on March 22, the United Nations recognizes World Water Day, an international observance and opportunity to learn more about water-related issues and to inspire action to change our water future.

This year’s theme, “Why waste water?” was chosen to help raise awareness about reducing and reusing wastewater. Most wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature without being reused; instead of disposing of wastewater, we should reduce and reuse it. How?

  • We can conserve water in our homes and reuse greywater on our gardens and lawns.
  • Cities can utilize reused wastewater for green spaces.
  • Industry and agriculture can treat and reuse discharge for cooling systems, irrigation and the like.

CH2M has long been a leader in treating and reusing wastewater, and while we didn’t invent today’s modern sewerage systems, we understand that water – even wastewater – is a precious resource and not something that we should simply dispose of. In 2015, CH2M received the Stockholm Industry Water Award for developing and advancing methods to clean water and for increasing public acceptance of recycled water. By evolving cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions for our clients around the world that take the entire water cycle into consideration, we are helping others see the benefits of water reuse.

CH2M’s journey in water reuse

Our commitment to water reuse technology began nearly 50 years ago with the design and operation of the first, full-scale advanced wastewater treatment facility in the United States in 1965. CH2M’s design and completion of the South Lake Tahoe Wastewater Treatment Plant, in South Lake Tahoe, California was an outstanding technical achievement that served as a major catalyst for advanced wastewater treatment.

The technology developed for the Tahoe project was the inspiration for the Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority’s (UOSA) state-of-the-art Advanced Water Reclamation Plant in Northern Virginia, one of the world’s first and largest indirect potable reuse plants. Our long involvement with UOSA, begun in the 1970s, is continually cited in the industry as a milestone project for potable water reuse.

Through extensive public outreach, promoting understanding of the full spectrum of water supply solutions needed to address shortages of fresh water, Singapore demonstrated to the world how technology and public education can be successfully aligned. Singapore overcame common challenges associated with water reuse projects, and developed NEWater, Singapore’s own brand of high-grade reclaimed wastewater. The holistic integrated approach Singapore used to address its water needs helped build support of water treatment technologies and their benefits, for not just Singapore, but for other regions of our world facing similar challenges By combining state-of-the-art technology and public education tools, unprecedented public acceptance of water reuse was achieved. Embracing the philosophy that water should be judged by its quality, not its history, Singaporeans value all water and consider wastewater “used water” rather than something that should be disposed of.

Leading the charge

In addition to recognizing all of the outstanding water work being done globally to protect our water resources, we must call attention to the infrastructure that supports our water and wastewater systems and the need to invest to keep it running smoothly. CH2M has joined together with industry partners and associations such as the Value of Water Campaign (VOW) to help educate and raise awareness among the public that water and the infrastructure that supports our water and wastewater systems is essential and invaluable. In conjunction with World Water Day, VOW released an economic analysis report on the need to invest an additional $95 billion per year in water infrastructure at all levels of government over the next 10 years to meet projected capital needs.

Water is the lifeline for every city and industry

In the U.S., when we turn the tap, we expect clean water to flow freely; yet, we are facing serious water infrastructure needs and sparse resources to meet them. Water is the life line of every city and nearly every industry, and U.S. water infrastructure is the backbone of the American economy. Without question, U.S. water infrastructure is in need of a major cash infusion. The average age of the 84,000 dams in the U.S. is over 50 years old, and more than 2,000 dams are rated as deficient high-hazard dams. Addressing this problem is estimated to cost more than $20 billion.

The United States is not the only place struggling with aging infrastructure and water challenges. Much of the world’s population lacks access to basic sanitation and has to walk miles to collect water for their homes or businesses. So on World Water Day, consider what you can do to ensure that communities around the world, and in your own backyard, have access to clean water and sanitation.

As CH2M's Global Market Director for Water, I am proud of the work we are doing around the world to solve some of our clients’ most challenging water issues. We are committed to continuing our 70 year journey of finding innovative solutions to address water sustainability and long-term water security concerns through new technologies and game changing ideas that can make an impact on a water-secure future for our world.

Learn more about the exciting water careers offered at CH2M, and connect with our recruitment team on LinkedIn.

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Peter Nicol

Global Practice Director
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