Moving Toward Water Resource Recovery Facilities

Water Environment Federation, 601 Wythe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, 2014, $113, 370 pp., softcover, ISBN 978-1-57278-303-4.

For decades, we have constructed wastewater treatment facilities in view of environmental protection. However, environmental engineers with a vision understand today that we have to rethink this approach. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) embarked on this by setting up a task force on resource recovery in which no less than 68 experts in the field were involved.

The book Moving Toward Water Resource Recovery Facilities is a practical outcome of the task force’s effort. It is a tool to help us with the new way of thinking. The book nicely summarizes the N-E-W concept, which stands for nutrients, energy, water. The global situation is reviewed briefly with an equal focus on the U.S. and the rest of the world. The next question, then, is how to implement this.

Chapter 4 explains how to begin implementing resource recovery. The chapter is dedicated to technologies in the three areas of resource recovery. This chapter may be the most impressive. Water reuse may be a known area today, but energy and nutrients still are unexplored to a great degree. Useful technologies are summarized here, with many references and suggestions for further reading. Chapter 5 brings the technologies directly to us by showing some examples of nutrient recovery in the U.S. and Europe (and the classic example of water recycling in Windhoek, South Africa).

Such transitions are not easy, and some explanation of how to handle them is appropriate. The WEF task force proposes a stepwise implementation. First is conservation, followed by optimization. This change involves operational considerations, utility management, financial aspects, and stakeholder communication. This type of thinking should be an essential part of the strategy of any facility, and this book offers a good opportunity to understand. The general message is that resource recovery is imperative and realistic in every aspect.

The book even looks further on the horizon: Nutrients, energy, and water are not the end of recovery efforts. Other resources including plastics, paper, building materials, and metals already appear in the minds of the most visionary engineers.


Bart Van der Bruggen is a professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium, Department of Chemical Engineering.


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