Tech opportunities in the rise of reuse
Interview with Professor Paul Jeffrey, of the UK’s Cranfield University and head of Water Reuse Europe
Prospects look good for companies offering technologies for water reuse, according to Professor Paul Jeffrey, of the UK’s Cranfield University and head of the recently launched trade association Water Reuse Europe. ‘I think there is every reason to be bullish and confident about the future of the sector,’ he says.
Climate change is putting pressure on water resources availability
This is partly because of regulatory drivers to consider water reuse. ‘There is encouragement from regulation and policy now to do that more systematically,’ says Jeffrey. ‘Clearly climate change is putting pressure on water resources availability in many parts of Europe, and that’s a driver. I think we have also seen a maturing in citizen attitudes towards water recycling,’ he adds.
US reuse sector is extraordinarily healthy
Jeffrey notes that in North America, for example, legislation, regulation and standards date back some 40-50 years and this history partly explains the current outlook there. ‘Their reuse sector is extraordinarily healthy and going from strength to strength,’ he says. The growth of experience in Europe is beginning to contribute to a similar shift. ‘Because we are now building up a legacy of reuse schemes in Europe, we’ve actually got a wider set of possible to solutions to choose from.’
Water Reuse Europe
This interest in reuse is reflected in the response to the launch of Water Reuse Europe around the start of the year. ‘It’s been really good,’ says Jeffrey. ‘It provides us with a good basis on which to attract additional members, and importantly to extend the range of services that we offer to our members.’ Prospects may look good for water reuse, but it is set to be a complex market. One of the main aims of setting up Water Reuse Europe is to help technology suppliers connect with this market.
Understanding performance characteristics
‘Every single water reuse project or initiative I have ever seen is slightly different,’ says Jeffrey. ‘You are dealing with a different water source in each case and you have a specific application in mind for it. In that context, I think the technology options that are out there at the moment are really quite exciting.’ This can mean technologies such as membranes or advanced oxidation technologies, for example, but their use has to be matched to the local conditions. ‘Being able to understand the performance characteristics of those treatment options and match them to a source and supplied water matrix is really what a lot of our members are looking to do and contribute,’ he adds.
There’s no stock solution
A look at experiences across Europe and worldwide shows why this makes for a complex market. ‘You can point to historical and legacy projects and say that for schemes of a certain type there appear to be preferred treatment steps, but as soon as you try to port that solution across to a new set of circumstances, there is always something that challenges the suitability of the original solution,’ says Jeffrey. ‘We are seeing in Europe, but also in places like Australia and the Middle East, that there’s no stock solution.’ This suggests there is room for technology providers to help shape solutions. ‘We are now seeing the scheme design experience from other parts of the world coming into Europe. That’s welcome,’ says Jeffrey. ‘What’s perhaps missing is the ability of equipment providers to shape debate around what an appropriate solution is. Perhaps Water Reuse Europe is one way in which we can do that.’
A resilient, safe and robust solution at the end of the day
‘Helping end-users, project funders, and consultancies that design these schemes think more broadly about what options they have available to them is part of both ensuring we get a resilient, safe and robust solution at the end of the day, and giving our members every opportunity to contribute and sell their products and services,’ he adds.
Given this aim, the association will be participating in Aquatech Amsterdam in November. ‘Aquatech Amsterdam’s the event to be at,’ says Jeffrey. ‘A lot of our existing members and our potential new members will either be exhibiting or visiting. It is a very efficient way of keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening in innovation in the water sector in Europe, and we are really pleased to be going along.’