Wastewater Treatment Process and its Benefits

With water shortages plaguing the world, water scarcity has become one of the largest threats facing society today, making it one of the UN’s main millennium development goals. Therefore governments have begun to develop new projects and technologies to mitigate its effects on the world. Such projects and technologies include rain harvesting, water location transfers, desalination, and wastewater treatment. Unlike the rest, wastewater treatment presents a sustainable short-term and long-term solution to water scarcity. Wastewater is the water used by residences and commercial/industrial establishments that has become too polluted for further use. The combination between these different types of wastewater causes the resulting wastewater mix to contain both suspended and dissolved organic and inorganic substances such as carbohydrates, fats, soaps, synthetic detergents, as well as various natural and synthetic organic chemicals.

Wastewater Treatment Process

The treatment process must be divided into different treatment stages to ensure good water and sanitation quality. The preliminary stage of the treatment process uses large filtering screens that remove large solid inorganic material such as paper, plastic, and metal. This is followed by the removal of the grit and silt which are abrasive to plant equipment. In the primary stage, wastewater is passed through a primary sedimentation tank where solid particles of organic material are removed by gravity settling at the bottom of the tank. The resultant primary sludge is then raked to the center of the tank where it is concentrated and pumped away for further treatment.

The wastewater then undergoes a biological process known as activated sludge process, which uses natural occurring micro-organisms to break down dissolved and suspended organic solids. The settled wastewater then enters aeration tanks where air is blown into the waterto provide oxygen promoting the growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms then consume the organic pollutants and nutrients in the wastewater. From the aeration tanks the mixture of wastewater and microorganisms is moved to a secondary sedimentation tank where the biomass settles to the bottom of the tank and is concentrated as sludge.

The clarified wastewater is then passed into a tank where the third stage of treatment, known as the Tertiary treatment stage, takes place. In this stage Chlorineis used to remove any biological pathogens present in the clarified wastewater that could be a risk to human health. In some instances this treatment is repeated more than once if the treated wastewater is reused for purposes such as irrigation of food crops or where close human contact may result. After all these treatment processes are complete, fresh water is produced.

Benefits

The water treatment process does not only produce clean reusable water, but also has the potential to produce various other benefits. It has the potential to reduce a country’s waste production, to produce energy through methane harvesting, and the potential to produce natural fertilizer from the waste collected through the process. Below is a more detailed explanation of these benefits:

Waste Reduction

Through the treatment of wastewater, the amount of waste that is usually released into the environment is reduced thus improving environment’s health. By doing so, the government in turn reduces the health risks associated with environmental pollution, and reduces the water loss induced through water pollution. Wastewater treatment also reduces the amount of money spent by a country on environmental rehabilitation projects required to battle pollution.

Energy Production

The sludge collected during the treatment process is itself treated because it contains a large amount of biodegradable material. It is treated with anaerobic bacteria in special fully enclosed digesters heated to 35 degrees Celsius, an area where these anaerobic microorganisms thrive without any oxygen. The gas produced during this anaerobic process contains a large amount of methane, which is harvested and then burned to generate electricity.

This energy can be used to power the wastewater treatment plants making them self-sustainable, andif there happens to be an excess of energy produced, it could be transported into a country’s national grid. This helps lower the reliance on non-renewable energy sourcessuch as fossil fuels, reducing a country’s carbon footprint and a country’s expenditure on energy production. An example of this system being used within the Middle East can be found in al-Samra wastewater treatment plants in Jordan. According to government officials the plant produces 40% of the energy it requires through burning the methane produced by the treatment process.

Fertilizer Production

Any biodegradable material remaining is dried in “drying lagoons” and is then turned into natural fertilizer. The resulting natural fertilizer is then used in the agricultural sector, increasing crop yields. This decreases the use of chemical fertilizers that pollute the surrounding marine and surface ecosystems.

Conclusion

In summary, the combination of these benefits along with water production makes wastewater treatment a sustainable short and long-term solution to the world’s water crisis, which will only increase as the world population increases. It is estimated that the world’s population is set to increase to 9 billion people, and this would cause an increase in the amount of water that can be treated. This will cause the production of large amounts of fresh usable water, thus helping battle water scarcity. 

About Amir Dakkak

Amir Dakkak, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, is an Environmental Scientist at AECOM. His main passion is water scarcity and water sustainability in the MENA region. He runs the blog Water Source that addresses water problems and sustainability. Amir has worked with Emirates Environmental Group on various environmental issues including water scarcity.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Wastewater Treatment Process and its Benefits

  1. Saad says:

    This is a pretty good article with valuable information. However, there is a clarification I would suggest. Simply blowing air into the tank isn't effective to allow for aerobic digestion processes to occur. The exchange doesn't free up enough oxygen in the system. Our organization, WCI Environmental Solutions, works very closely in remediation of wastewater and sewage lagoons by way of increasing oxygen content throughout using a chemical free, mobile, cost effective and solar powered resonant energy wave generation system – the EOS-2000 system. This prevents odors, sludge buildup, sequesters nutrients such as phosphorus at thr bottom and provides cleaner water to process further. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: Water Crisis in Refugee Camps | EcoMENA

  3. Pingback: Green SMEs: Catalyst for Green Economy

  4. Pingback: Sustainable Agriculture: Perspectives for Jordan Valley | EcoMENA

  5. Pingback: Top Ways to Reduce Wastewater Generation | Cleantech Solutions

  6. Pingback: 4 Ecological Benefits of Wastewater Treatment – Geek Expos

Share your Thoughts