Jun 03, 2015

White Paper Offers Water Reuse, Recycling Policy Options

The white paper highlights four policy options for governments to consider as they look for ways to expand water recycling and reuse

GE white paper water reuse recycling

As a growing number of communities around the world are encountering acute water scarcity issues, many are turning to water recycling and reuse as solutions. To help governments find readily accessible information on policy options, GE released a new white paper, “Addressing Water Scarcity Through Recycling and Reuse.”

The white paper highlights four major water reuse policy options for governments to consider as they look for ways to expand water recycling and reuse: education and outreach, removing barriers, incentives, and mandates and regulations.

“Today's growing populations and economies are creating an unsustainable demand for water. By 2050, the world will demand 55% more water and 70% more energy. Municipalities and governments need to reuse more water to ensure demand equals supply. The goal of our new white paper is to help them think through their options for water recycling and reuse while providing a menu of policy options and concrete examples of how these policies are being applied around the world,” said Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water.

The white paper will be showcased June 3 in San Francisco at the Economic Power of Water event hosted by GE and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The event is bringing together both public and private organizations, as well as thought leaders in water policy and research, to explore the current challenges to unlocking the economic potential of water and to provide actionable next steps to create a more water- and energy-secure world.

The four major water reuse policy options addressed in the white paper are:

  • Education and outreach. Education and outreach are critical to advancing water recycling. Most communities with water recycling programs have active public education programs to raise awareness and help overcome any public concerns about the safety and quality of recycled water.
  • Removing barriers. Barriers to water recycling are technological, financial and regulatory, and one of the biggest barriers is a water code that does not recognize the use of recycled water. The first steps toward breaking down barriers are to set specific quality standards for recycled water and to provide guidance on the use of the reclaimed water.
  • Incentives. The most common incentive is economic, making recycled water cheaper than potable water. Other approaches are to tie water usage to conservation programs and to exempt recycled water users from many of the community’s conservation requirements.
  • Mandates and regulations. Some communities facing severe water restrictions adopt laws requiring the use of recycled water. The two most common methods for mandating the use of recycled water are requirements targeting the supply of recycled water by regional or local wastewater treatment districts and requirements affecting the use of recycled water by residents or businesses.

GE Ecomagination also will be launching a global open innovation challenge to optimize treated wastewater reuse in industrial settings. Treated wastewater can be used in a number of areas where freshwater is used today—such as agriculture, power generation cooling and industrial manufacturing. This GE Ecomagination challenge aims to improve the matchmaking between treated wastewater sources and industrial applications.