April 2013, Vol. 25, No.4


Robot runs on energy from wastewater

EcoBot-III is the first robot of its kind; it operates on wastewater from the Saltford water resource recovery facility in England. After 3 years of development, researchers have unveiled the robot, which uses microbial fuel cells to transform wastewater into electricity, according to a University of the West of England (UWE; Bristol) news release. 

The robot can move and operate its onboard mechanisms unaided using energy that microbial fuel cells extract from nutrient-rich wastewater. It weighs 6 kg and consists of layers of microbial cells, catchment trays, and a fly-trapping hat linked to an artificial stomach, the news release says. 

EcoBot-III was developed through a collaborative research partnership between scientists at Wessex Water (Bath, England) and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, which is a collaborative research partnership between UWE and the University of Bristol. The robot could herald a new future for wastewater treatment. Replicating it on a larger scale could allow for processes to become self-sufficient and powered by the wastewater it is treating, said Julian Dennis, Wessex Water’s director of innovation and research, in the news release. This would reduce energy and operational requirements and their associated costs and environmental effects. 

A driver for this research project was to find a solution for wastewater treatment operations in remote-access areas, the news release says. Research on this topic will continue, as will the partnership between Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Wessex Water, the news release says. 



Idaho water resource recovery facility art educates about microorganisms

The City of Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) Wastewater Utility Department showcases art representing some of its tiniest employees —microorganisms. 

Since summer 2012, the facility has featured art that includes seven 3.6-m-tall (12-ft-tall), 136- to 181-kg (300- to 400-lb) steel sculptures of the microorganisms that aid in the treatment process. 

Through a public ordinance, any city project must donate a small percentage of its funds to commission and maintain artwork. So, the art commissionissued a request for art, choosing artist duo Allen and Mary Dee Dodge to produce the artwork. 

The artists created sculptures of roundworms, ciliates, nematodes, filamentous bacteria, and rotifers. They also made plaques describing each of the featured microorganisms and what they do in the treatment facility as an educational component for visitors. The sculptures now sit along the sidewalk leading to the entrance of the department’s building. 

For more details, read “A Buggy Exhibition: An Idaho wastewater utility installs artwork of microorganisms near its WRRF” in the March issue of WEF Highlights at news.wef.org.  



Online tool enables organization to map water risks

Companies and public and private organizations have a new tool at their disposal, the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. The online tool, created by the World Resources Institute (WRI; Washington, D.C.), maps water risks around the world based on currently available data that include water stress, flood occurrence, access to water, and drought, according to a WRI news release. 

WRI launched the tool so industry, government, and investors can see how water stress can affect operations. The tool will help prioritize investments that will increase water security. 

The atlas is a customizable global map based on 12 indicators of physical, regulatory, and reputational risk, the news release says. The tool enables users to plot locations and compare different locations’potential exposure to water stress and risk, and to review maps of individual indicators, such as seasonal variability, the news release says. 

Release of the Water Risk Atlas is the culmination of a 3-year effort by WRI to create a peer-reviewed methodology for mapping complex water security around the world, the release says.