Get Smart with Water Technologies

Water Technology

Water Technology for Today's Rapidly Changing Economy

Water technologies include everything from biotech membranes to cloud-based water network monitoring systems. They play a vital role from start to finish whenever water is involved, from source water filtration to wastewater treatment. Most importantly, in the 21st century they are no longer only for your local water municipality. Abhirabh Basu of Lux Research explained how today these technologies are being used in innovative ways by a wide range of companies. Basu says that while innovative technologies have always been the corner stone of the water industry, today advanced water and wastewater technology startups have successfully penetrated the industrial and municipal markets, thereby making processes more energy-efficient, reducing wastes and enabling cost-effective reuse, and automating the industry through better process control.

Emerging Technologies and How Your Business Can Use Them

Chemical monitoring systems today are highly sensitive and relatively inexpensive. ANDalyze is a leader in this area that sells sensors which monitor for the presence of trace metals and other chemical contaminants. Marty Dugan, Chief Marketing Officer for ANDalyze, explains the precision and cost-effectiveness of his company’s technology,

Marty Dugan“We can measure for lead in drinking water as low as 2 parts per billion which is well below the US EPA limit for lead. When our automated instrument becomes available later this year it will measure at near one dollar per test.”

Mr. Dugan and ANDalyze are firm believers in the notion that "you can't manage what you can't measure." The test takes only two minutes or less, allowing municipal drinking water facilities, mining companies, industrial water users and environmental engineering firms to quickly learn if their water contains contaminants. 

ANDalyze monitoring system

ANDalyze sensors currently test for:

  • lead
  • copper
  • mercury
  • cadmium
  • zinc
  • uranium

and are being developed to test for chromium and nickel.

How It Works: This cutting-edge technology uses DNA enzymes that contain a fluorescent marker. A hand-held fluorimeter measures the rate of fluorescence in the sample, which directly correlates to the concentration level of a target metal. The fluorimeter is used at the test site, saving companies time and money.

The Speedy Breedy

Microbial monitoring systems test for the presence of bacteria, and include the Speedy Breedy from Bactest. This sensor can be used to detect the growth of microbes in food and beverage products, drinking water, the ballast water of shipping vessels, industrial products, pharmaceuticals and stem cell cultures.

How It Works: A sample is added to a culture vessel where, if contaminating microorganisms are present, they will begin to grow. Speedy Breedy checks for contamination using advanced pressure sensing that can detect the gaseous exchange of microbial respiration. Traditional tests for microbial contamination involve growing microbes on agar plates or in nutrient broths in a laboratory, a time-intensive and inefficient process. Speedy Breedy automates this technology, making it fast and portable. 

Leak detection systems help a variety of companies reduce the amount of water lost from pipe leakage. ePulse technology from Echologics not only detects leaks, but also assesses the condition of distribution and transmission mains. This allows companies to identify leaks in their early stages and track their progression. It can be used on all types of pipes including PVC. This technology is not just utilized by municipalities and private water utilities but also by chemical refineries, construction firms, food and beverage companies, and other areas of manufacturing.ePulse technology from Echologics

How It Works:  Acoustic sensors are attached to fire hydrants, valves or directly onto pipes. A sound wave is induced in the pipeline and travels along the pipe. The acoustic sensors capture the time it takes the sound wave to travel between two sensor stations. The speed at which the sound wave travels is dictated by the condition of the pipe wall. As the sound wave travels, it places a microscopic flex on the pipe wall. The greater the flex, the weaker the pipe, giving a measure of pipe condition.

Automated metering infrastructure (AMI) is being implemented by municipalities and private utilities to increase meter accuracy, provide real-time data, reduce the cost of delivering water to commercial and residential customers, and increase communication between customers and providers. In addition to automated meter reading, Fathom AMI offers a cost-saving, personalized billing system and an app. for customers that gives them up-to-date account information. AMI matters to businesses not only because it allows them a greater degree of control over the finances of their water consumption but also because it is helping municipalities and utility to keep water prices down.Fathom AMI

How It Works: Fathom is a cloud-based system that uses automated meter readings to give utilities real-time data about their water network.

 

Desalinization and water recycling are becoming an economically viable options for many businesses as the cost of water from utilities and municipalities continues to rise. In fact, some utilities and municipalities are even constructing their own desalinization plants. There are several different technologies used for desalinization and the removal of other dissolved chemicals. 

 

 

Reverse Osmosis Membranes

Forward Osmosis Membranes

Biomimetic Protein Membranes

Advantages

Widely-used, innovative RO systems emerging

Efficient, resistant to membrane fouling

Lower energy consumption

Disadvantages

Low recovery, membrane fouling

Specialty applications

Specialty applications

Uses

Desalinization, water purification for medical, industrial and food processes, wastewater treatment

 

Wastewater treatment, food processing, desalinization

 

Desalinization, artificial kidneys, dialysis tubing, contact lenses, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals

Companies

Desalitech

HydrOxSys,  Oasys Water

Aquaporin,

Applied Biomimetic

Reverse osmosis (RO) can be used for the treatment of both surface and ground water and are widely used in industrial and municipal applications. Businesses in agriculture, food and beverage, livestock raising, heavy industry, and other areas are currently using this technology for their source water. However, the most common criticism of the technology is the amount of wastewater it produces. Typically, about 25% of water that is filtered with RO becomes wastewater. Desalitech, a Massachusetts based company, has created a new RO system that has up to 98% recovery and typically reduces disposal costs by 50 to 75%. This highly efficient system can even turn municipal and industrial wastewater into a clean water source.ReFlex technology from Desalitech

Desalitech’s RO system is also resistant to membrane fouling, another issue typical to conventional RO systems. Membrane fouling is the impeded performance of a membrane due to the deposition of biological, clay, mineral and organic particles on the membrane surface or pores.

Rick Stover, Educational Vice President for DesalitechEducational Vice President for Desalitech, Rick Stover, says that using ReFlex technology for wastewater reuse has a “double benefit.” It allows the company to treat their wastewater while also providing them with a new water supply. In San Diego, Los Angles, and other cities where water availability is low, RO is used to reclaim municipal wastewater. The treated water is potable and goes directly back into the aquifer.

 

How It Works: Reverse osmosis uses pressure to push water through a membrane to catch unwanted chemicals dissolved in the water. Desalitech uses internal recirculation to increase efficiency. 

Forward osmosis is an emerging technology used in specialty applications. HydrOxSys has developed a forward osmosis membrane that can have energy savings of approximately 80% over RO. HydrOxySys’ membrane is resistant to membrane fouling and is safe to use for food processes, such as the production of hydration drinks and other beverages.

Oasys Water is a leading provider of integrated FO systems for high recovery desalination, including brine management and zero liquid discharge. Their technology is also used in the power-generation, oil and gas, and mining industries.

How It Works: Forward osmosis relies on a chemical process rather than human-generated pressure to filter water through the membrane, allowing for major energy savings. It pulls water through the membrane using a highly concentrated “draw” solution on the other side. Oasys’ ClearFlo Membrane Brine Concentrator has an innovative recovery system for maximizing efficiency and allowing for zero liquid discharge. Water that crosses the membrane combines with the draw solution and enters the recovery portion of the system. There, heat converts the diluted draw solution from a liquid into a vapor, leaving behind the fresh water. The draw solution is then re-concentrated and recycled.

Biomimetic membranes are an innovative technology inspired by nature. Aquaporin is a leader in this field. Their membranes are used in industrial water treatment, treatment of difficult wastewater streams and other niche markets. Biomimetic membranes require lower pressure levels than conventional RO, thereby sharply reducing energy consumption. Additionally, biomimetic membranes are highly sensitive, and have the ability to restrict the passage of contaminants including bacteria, viruses, minerals, proteins, DNA, dissolved gases, salts, detergents, and even protons without hampering the passage of water.Aquaporin

Another company that uses this smart technology is Applied Biomimetic. Their Mangrove Membrane is used in artificial kidneys, dialysis tubing, contact lenses, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, in addition to traditional applications.

How It Works: Biomimetic membranes typically have aquaporin proteins, found in all living cells, embedded in them. Aquaporins attract water molecules into their channels and then shoot the water molecules through to the other side, as they are hydrophobic or water-repelling.

Baswood biological systems

Wastewater treatment technologies are not just used by heavy industry, such as steel, oil and gas. In today’s green economy, a range of businesses use these methods in innovative ways to make the most out of their wastewater. For example, Baswood biological systems help the dairy industry treat fats, oils and grease in their wastewater while also concentrating and collecting milk solids that can be sold in high-protein animal feeds. Baswood systems also treat the wastewater runoff of the agricultural industry, including livestock raising. Their system can recover phosphorus and nitrogen to be used in fertilizer.

How It Works: Biological treatment systems contain helpful bacteria that consume organic material, helping to lower the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and reduce specific chemicals in the wastewater.

Editor's Note (added 8/4/16): There has been recent news coverage concerning Baswood's treatment system at a Dr. Pepper plant. However, the malfunction was due to an operational issue related to the intermittent loss of power and mains pressure at the facility three years ago, rather than Baswood’s technology capabilities. The odor control system will likely be updated to a power independent AC filter and the facility will be fined. It is not uncommon for treatment facilities to have odor issues or discharge issues or face operational problems. Despite the recent issue, it is still clear that Baswood technology has many benefits over other older systems, including lower energy consumption (and therefore greenhouse gas reduction), sludge reduction (which causes unnecessary piling in landfills), lower excess nutrient discharge (thereby preventing algae blooms), and smaller amounts of wastewater loads on centralized facilities.

OxyMem's Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor

Bubble-less aeration devices are perhaps the most significant advancement in wastewater treatment. Abhirabh Basu of Lux Research explained why biological wastewater treatment systems are typically so expensive. He says traditional aeration systems use bubbles to deliver oxygen to microorganisms, requiring large amounts of energy. In fact, according to OxyMem, conventional wastewater treatment typically consumes 2-3% of a nation’s electricity production. Fortunately, OxyMem, an Ireland-based company, has come up with a solution.

Their Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) is bubble-less, allowing for a 75% reduction of energy costs. It also produces 50% less sludge and an 80% reduced footprint. According to Basu, this also helps companies save money as the less sludge means lower sludge disposal costs.

 

Wayne ByrneWayne Byrne, managing director of OxyMem, explained that their “innovative ‘Drop in’ solution for wastewater aeration can complement existing treatment systems and deliver up to 50% additional biological capacity.” This makes the MABR easy to install into pre-existing municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems.

How It Works:  Bubble diffusion in conventional treatment plants typically suffer energy losses of 65-70%. The MABR uses hollow fiber and gas permeable membranes, rather than bubbles, to deliver of oxygen to the micro-organisms. The MABR steel cage is simply dropped into an existing aeration tank to improve performance.

Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone”

Runoff prevention is an issue closely related to wastewater treatment, however it addresses the issue at its source. AgriScience has created a fertilizer that

decreases the amount of runoff created in fields. Therefore, farmers end up losing less of the essential and expensive nutrients in fertilizers, with the added bonus of a 30%+ increase in crop yields.

Fertilizer nutrient pollution is a pressing issue in the United States. Runoff from farms means that nutrients end up in ground water, rivers, lakes, and oceans where they are deadly to wildlife and a serious danger to humans. The dramatic effects of fertilizer runoff can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone,” where the pollution has created an oxygen-deficient, virtually lifeless area of approximately 5,800 square miles.

Kevin RileyCEO of AgriScience (ASI), Kevin Riley, explains how ASI’s technology, “replaces the existing 20th century manufactured fertilizers with a 21st century product that fits within farmer’s existing budgets while dramatically increasing crop yields. This makes farming more productive and profitable while solving the nutrient pollution problem.”

How It Works:  Soil is negatively charged as are many manufactured fertilizer nutrients which means they ultimately repel each other and contribute to nutrient pollution. Rather than treating the nutrient losses from soil downstream, ASI technology is a powder mixed into soil that allows for the retention of positively charged nutrients. The nutrients retained in the plant root zone are only released when plants demand them.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

The water technologies of the 21st century are efficient, innovative and resourceful. From making desalinization an economically viable option to helping agricultural businesses make the most of their wastewater, there are a wide range of applications for this technology. It’s not just municipalities and oil refiners that are using water anymore. Today, a wide range of companies are using these innovations to increase profits, benefit the environment, and, in short, get smart.