Investing in Resiliency: What’s the Impact of Water Reuse? 

14 Sep 2017  |  Charlie Suse

An increasing focus on resiliency and water supply risk is driving investment in water reuse, or reclaimed wastewater solutions. We now see 775 reuse projects in planning across 19 states, up from 247 projects across 11 states in 2015.

Bluefield just released a new report on the U.S. Water Reuse Market. Here are a few key takeaways.

Even When States Aren’t in Drought, Reuse Offers a Means to Secure Supplies. Climate volatility, such as the hurricane in Houston and California’s five-year drought, are forcing municipal utilities to seek alternative strategies to de-risk existing water supplies, and water reuse has become a key solution in their contingency plans. Even after the rains arrived last year, California utilities demonstrated a paradigm shift by proceeding to move forward with more than 6.0 million m3/d of new reuse supplies, including systems for potable purposes.

Three States Drive Reuse Development. At the epicenter of U.S. reuse activity are three states– California, Texas and Florida– which represent 80 percent of planned capacity additions. California regulators, who are progressing towards a streamlined potable reuse policy, will be central to the adoption of potable reuse. The passage of a dedicated policy is expected to serve as a template for other state regulators seeking to facilitate efficiencies in water usage. Bluefield forecasts 2.2 million m3/d of potable capacity additions over the next decade, across the U.S., mainly in urban centers.

Industrial Users Key Off-takers for Reuse Expansion. Industrial companies are expanding their role in water reuse adoption, as an off-taker for treated wastewater. Bluefield has identified electric power plantsoil refineries, and upstream oil & gas players as the biggest opportunities for reclaimed wastewater. Historically, irrigation for agriculture, urban green spaces, and golf courses have been the primary applications. But now, we see craft breweries and data centers using recycled wastewater, as well as an increasing interest in onsite, or decentralized reuse systems, in commercial facilities for toilets, cooling, and landscaping.

Over $21.5 Billion in Market Opportunity over Ten Years. With investment in municipal reuse expected to grow 15% over ten years, compared to only 1% annually for municipal water infrastructure overall, reuse presents a significant growth opportunity in a traditionally slow-paced sector. The majority of CAPEX spend for reuse over the next decade will go to pipes (42%), advanced treatment technologies & solutions (40%), and engineering & design (13%).

Still reuse represents only 3% of existing water supplies. If the public can get beyond the concept, the U.S. reuse market could take off even further. We recycle our soda cans and plastic water bottles, why not our drinking water?