Saline sewage treatment and source separation of urine for more sustainable urban water management

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

While energy consumption and its associated carbon emission should be minimized in wastewater treatment, it has a much lower priority than human and environmental health, which are both closely related to efficient water quality management. So conservation of surface water quality and quantity are more important for sustainable development than green house gas (GHG) emissions per se. In this paper, two urban water management strategies to conserve fresh water quality and quantity are considered: (1) source separation of urine for improved water quality and (2) saline (e.g. sea) water toilet flushing for reduced fresh water consumption in coastal and mining cities. The former holds promise for simpler and shorter sludge age activated sludge wastewater treatment plants (no nitrification and denitrification), nutrient (Mg, K, P) recovery and improved effluent quality (reduced endocrine disruptor and environmental oestrogen concentrations) and the latter for significantly reduced fresh water consumption, sludge production and oxygen demand (through using anaerobic bioprocesses) and hence energy consumption. Combining source separation of urine and saline water toilet flushing can reduce sewer crown corrosion and reduce effluent P concentrations. To realize the advantages of these two approaches will require significant urban water management changes in that both need dual (fresh and saline) water distribution and (yellow and grey/brown) wastewater collection systems. While considerable work is still required to evaluate these new approaches and quantify their advantages and disadvantages, it would appear that the investment for dual water distribution and wastewater collection systems may be worth making to unlock their benefits for more sustainable urban development.

Keywords: biological sulphate reduction, urine separation, wastewater treatment

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