The firm has worked since the 1960s to advance technology and build public acceptance of recycled water
CH2M, a Colorado-based global service and engineering company, announced at the American Water Works Assn. Annual Conference & Exposition that the firm has been named the winner of the 2015 Stockholm Industry Water Award (SIWA) for developing and advancing methods to clean water and increasing public acceptance of recycled water.
“CH2M has long recognized that our global community cannot afford to use water once and dispose of it—freshwater sources are too precious and growing more scarce. We are proud to receive the 2015 Stockholm Industry Award for our leadership in the evolution and acceptance of purifying wastewater effluent to create drinking water,” said Greg McIntyre, CH2M global water business group president.
The comopany has invented, implemented and refined methods for cleaning used water back to drinking water quality. But because this water is only valuable if people actually use it, the firm has put effort into increasing public understanding and acceptance. It pioneered the application of social science research to better understand the underlying reasons why people reject the notion of reuse and what might be done to change that mindset. This research, combined with demonstrations, education and transparency, has dispelled myths around use of treated wastewater and paved the way for a surge in interest in and acceptance of potable reuse.
“Our planet does not hold any enormous, unknown sources of freshwater. We have to live with what we have. With growing populations and more unreliable precipitation patterns, it is essential to increase our reuse of water in the future,” said Stockholm International Water Institute Executive Director Torgny Holmgren. “CH2M has understood this. In working for public acceptance of drinking treated wastewater, [it has] taken a step beyond engineering, and shown impressive commitment to wise water management.”
“Through rigorous testing and analysis of both technical processes and societal perceptions, CH2M has created the opportunity to close the urban water loop,” the award committee stated in its citation.
CH2M’s first notable success in wastewater recycling came in the 1960s, when CH2M pioneered the third, advanced stage of effluent treatment by removing excess phosphorous, nitrogen and trace metals, restoring the used water of the South Tahoe Public Utility to purity. Through a series of improvements, tests and large-scale implementation, the technology of treating used water back to drinking water quality was further refined to increase reliability, efficiency and sustainability.
In the 1970s, the firm designed the world’s first surface water indirect potable reuse plant, improving water quality for more than one million people in northern Virginia. It continued to evolve water reuse practices, and in the early 2000s worked with Singapore’s national water agency to not only prove the safety of potable reuse, but to win public acceptance with the country’s NEWater project.
“In a rapidly urbanizing world where the vast majority of sewage spills untreated out into the environment, the transformative technologies and strategic communication of this year’s SIWA winner has provided a significant step towards future water security of cities,” the award committee said.
SIWA was established in 2000 to stimulate and celebrate water achievements by companies in improving production, managing risks, finding solutions and contributing to wise water management. The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development were partners in establishing the award, which also is supported by the International Water Assn. and World Wide Fund for Nature.