After the Clean Water Act (CWA) passed the U.S. Congress in 1972, a flurry of federal funding supported the construction of modern municipal wastewater treatment plants equipped to meet new discharge standards across the U.S. Now, more than 40 years later, the plants are rapidly deteriorating and running low on capacity. In many regions, communities are also faced with another challenge: long and damaging droughts.
Traditional water infrastructure is centralized. Ratepayers typically take a linear approach to water consumption, using water just once before disposal. Conveyance systems then channel spent residential, commercial and industrial water to a central treatment plant. There, outdated technologies – typically aerobic and extremely energy-intensive – treat contaminants from the combined wastewater stream before discharging it to the local ecosystem.