• The 2012 update to the EPA Guidelines for Water Reuse will place a greater emphasis on agricultural and industrial reuse, and the environment.

file under: Water Reuse, Water, Integrated Resources Management, Program Management, Government, Federal Government

Addressing the World's Water Challenges

Widespread drought and changing weather patterns are redistributing the world’s water. Meanwhile, our cities continue to grow. In the coming years, safe, effective water reuse will be critical to industry, agriculture and the public around the world.

Developed by CDM Smith in 1980, and updated in 1992 and 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidelines for Water Reuse provides some of the most importance guidance on water reuse to water and wastewater utilities, regulatory agencies, and industries in the United States and around the world. Recently, the EPA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and CDM Smith initiated the development process for the next EPA Guidelines for Water Reuse document, to address some of these pressing global issues.

Re-envisioning Water Reuse
The updated guidelines will focus on a range of water reuse practices and projects, from low-technology solutions to advanced treatment processes. “We anticipate that the changes to the EPA Guidelines for Water Reuse will update the 2004 document and address some areas not previously covered, including the role of reuse in integrated water resources planning and management, energy use and sustainability associated with water reuse practices, coverage of individual onsite and graywater reuse systems (including LEED®-certified systems), and the potential of direct potable reuse options,” says Robert Bastian, a senior environmental scientist at the EPA’s Office of Water.

The 2012 update will differ from past guidelines in several ways, Bastian explains. “The document will include more case studies, updated summaries of state reuse requirements and more coverage of current international reuse practices. We will also establish a website to keep this information current.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also collaborating on the update. There will be more emphasis on agricultural reuse, which will reference USDA-funded research on using reclaimed water for crops. “We are really happy to have their support, as agricultural reuse is going to play a greater role than it has in the past in water reuse supply and demand,” explains Bob Matthews, CDM Smith senior vice president. Matthews has participated in the management and technical review of the 2012 guidelines, and played an important role in previous updates, as well.

The updated guidelines will also present information with a more regional approach than past versions. “This update will provide more site-specific case studies, showing how reuse can be implemented while considering site-specific drivers and conditions,” according to Kati Bell, CDM Smith principal environmental engineer and project manager for the guidelines update. “Each state has its own regulations, and this is analogous to what you see globally. For example, in Africa, each country has its own regional challenges and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reuse.”

Managing a Collaborative Effort
CDM Smith is the lead consultant on this collaboration and is managing the 2012 update, which will be researched, written and reviewed by nearly 200 experts in the field, ranging from scientists and engineers to lawmakers and public employees. “CDM Smith's role in coordinating and managing the update through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with EPA is essential to completing this project,” says Bastian.

Bell is leading the technical review process, which began in 2009 and she has spent the past 2 years facilitating workshops and informational sessions at water conferences around the world, including Singapore International Water Week. “Much of this effort is to make sure from a public involvement standpoint that people have a chance to influence what the guidelines cover,” Bell explains.

Steps to Safer Water
The 2004 edition of the EPA Guidelines for Water Reuse was one of the agency’s most widely distributed documents. “The EPA guidelines are the international standard for water reuse and are still broadly accepted by other countries around the world,” notes Bell.

The 2012 guidelines will be a resource for developing countries, she says. “The international chapter will discuss minimizing human health risks related to wastewater reuse. It will also promote better management practices for countries that do not have the economic or technical resources to implement the advanced treatment processes that we have in the United States.”

The goal is to provide a range of options that countries around the world can use to make reused water a safe and reliable water source. “Historically, it was an all or nothing approach—either you built a large wastewater treatment plant, or did nothing,” Matthews explains. “But you have to start with some preliminary treatment to protect the water resources, and over time you can become more sophisticated. In this update, we are using case studies to show that progress.”

The updates to the EPA Guidelines for Water Reuse are scheduled to be released at the annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference in October 2012.

Visit waterreuseguidelines.org for ongoing information, updates and the complete document when it is available.