Water You Think About Reuse?

Water You Think About Reuse?

wh-1Emory University has an on-site water recycling system unlike any other in the nation. Emory’s WaterHub uses sustainable technology which mimics natural processes to clean wastewater for non-potable uses such as heating and cooling, irrigation, and toilet flushing. Team Water from the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office took a trip to Atlanta, GA for a sneak peak of the Hub’s inner-workings. Let’s dive in to the details!

Wastewater Source

The water treated at the WaterHub is diverted from an on-campus sewer pipe to the greenhouse portion of the water reclamation site. The water gets screened to remove any non-bio-degradables then goes through additional cleaning processes.

Hydroponic Treatment System

wh-4A variety of low-maintenance tropical plants are featured in the greenhouse. Their dense root systems are submerged in the wastewater and provide excellent habitat for waste-treating microorganisms to thrive. Microorganisms play a huge role in reclaiming wastewater; by consuming excess nutrients, they biologically purify the water. It is extremely important to maintain an environment that is beneficial to the microorganisms so they can break down pollutants in the water. In addition to clinging onto plant roots, microorganisms benefit from the added surface area of a BioWeb textile media (shown to the left) and honeycomb-shaped plastic pellets that move freely in the water as biofilm carriers. Microorganisms work efficiently to break down organic waste when given appropriate living conditions.

Reciprocating Wetland Technologywh-5

Tidal marsh ecosystems are mimicked at the WaterHub to provide alternating anoxic and aerobic treatment conditions. Wastewater is filled and drained in adjacent bio-cells that contain gravel. The gravel serves as microorganism habitat during this stage. The recurrent fill-and-drain sequence allows control of microbial processes.

Clarifying, Filtering, & Disinfecting

After the microorganisms complete their part of the treatment, the nearly-clean water flows to a clarifier tank and disk filter where any remaining solids, nutrients, and color are removed from the water. Some microorganisms are taken from the clarifier tank and relocated to the beginning of treatment where they repeat the process of breaking down bio solids and sludge. Once the water flows over the disk filters, only trace amounts of microorganisms remain. Ultraviolet disinfection disrupts the DNA of remaining microorganisms, making the water safe to use for non-potable demands. The ready-to-use water is delivered through a series of purple pipes to differentiate the supply from wastewater and drinking water.

Recycling Water Is A No-Brainer!

Custom, satellite wastewater reclamation facilities like the Emory WaterHub are efficient and cost-effective. Water naturally recycles in the environment, but why not extend the life cycle of water even further like the WaterHub does? On-site water reclamation reduces withdrawals from sensitive ecosystems and eliminates a significant portion of the water distribution system, thus reducing a community’s carbon and water footprints.

Let’s get on board with sustainable water reuse and make a greater effort to use water wisely! For more information about the WaterHub and Sustainable Water, visit here.


Today’s blog was written by Emily Bilcik, Graduate Assistant at the WCO.


Visiting Athens…stop #4

Now, that the Think a the Sink blog is back in action after taking a summer hiatus, it is time to Printcontinue our journey around Athens.  We are highlighting buildings, businesses, and organizations that demonstrate water stewardship methods in Athens-Clarke County.   Our last stop was the recently constructed Bob Snipes Water Resources Center (WRC).  The WRC highlights 5 sustainable and water saving elements both within and around the building.  Last time we explored the LEED certified building.  We will continue our journey here.

The element we will be exploring today is the bioretention pond in front of the WRC.  Bioretention ponds act as funnels to capture stormwater.  Stormwater runs off roads, sidewalks, buildings, and parking lots carrying soil, litter, and pollutants to rivers.  Possible pollutants include metals, fertilizers, chemicals, and oils.  Bioretention ponds interrupt this process by allowing pollutants in the stormwater to be filtered through layers of gravel, sand, planting soil, plants, and mulch.

Bioretention PondBioretention ponds filter out the pollutants in stormwater runoff, with the goal of keeping our waterways (Middle Oconee and North Oconee Rivers) healthy for humans and wildlife.

Some of the benefits of bioretention ponds include

  • Reduce local flooding
  • Improves water quality
  • Provides habitat in trees, bushes, and plants
  • Berries and nuts provide food for wildlife
  • More attractive than other stormwater management systems
  • Filters pollutants from stormwater

Bioretention ponds can be found in neighborhoods and even parking lot islands.  As you are out and about in Athens this week, take a look and see if you can find anymore bioretention ponds.  If you find one be sure to let us know!

Jackie Sherry- Water  Conservation Office Graduate Assistant

Saving Water…it’s that time of year

(Written by Patty Lawson, Water Conservation Education Intern, the newest member of “Team Water!)

It’s September.  I would consider September the busiest month of the entire year.  School started up a couple weeks ago, work is back in full swing, and suddenly calendars are bursting with events, meetings, and plans.  Plus, finally the good TV shows are back.  We are back into our routines after that glorious time we call summer.

Now ask yourself this: How does your daily routine support water conservation?  The whole house is showering daily, bustling about getting ready for work and school (gone are the days when going to pools means you are now clean for the day).  The busy day makes it easy to lose track of the important things, like water.  Did your kids turn off the water when they brushed their teeth?  Are they playing too much in the shower/bath and wasting water? Have you checked your toilets for leaks lately?

As we dive into our new routines for the fall, let’s keep water conservation in mind.  Little steps can make a big difference in the environment, as well as on your water bill.

  • Put a sticky note on the mirror in the bathroom to remind yourself to turn off the water when brushing your teeth.  This can save 8 gallons of water a day.
  • A couple drops of food coloring in your toilet tank can detect silent leaks.  When purchasing a new toilet, make sure it has a WaterSense label. WaterSense
  • Take 5 minute showers.  The average shower time is 8 minutes, and cutting down your shower time can save 5 to 15 gallons per shower.  Add that up for your entire family per year, and you could save thousands of gallons of water and money on your bill.  Also, who wouldn’t want a few more extra minutes of sleep?
  • Install high-efficiency showerheads and aerators.  Look for the WaterSense label.  They are easy to install and save lots of water.

With little efforts here and there, Athens can be a leader in water conservation.  Making water conservation a priority in your daily routine helps your family, the community, and your bill!

 Brushing Teeth