Canadian cities are facing both increased water demand and a strained capacity to store wastewater, so a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan is exploring the option of reusing wastewater and stormwater.

Dr. Kerry McPhedran recently received a five-year grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. With the money, he plans to host public engagement sessions and learn more about the public’s perception on wastewater reusage, as he believes the main thing that is keeping solutions like this from happening, is stigma.

“With any sort of wastewater, we treat it well enough that it could become potable water again. But the issue with that is public perception. People don’t like the idea of flushing their toilet and getting drinking water from that water again.”

He says currently, significant amounts of energy and money are used to put wastewater back into the river.

“A lot of that energy is a loss for us. We’ve been looking at a lot of ways to reuse wastewater in some sort of municipal fashion, because we are collecting it. Because we have already used that energy to collect it, from my perspective it doesn’t make sense to just put that water back into the river when you could use it for some other use.”

These uses could include drinking water, irrigation, industrial processes, and agriculture.

He says a third process can be put in between the wastewater collection and drinking water treatment processes to make the public feel more safe. However, it would add more complexity.

“That would be a natural process. Some places will inject into a groundwater aquifer, let it store for a certain amount of time, and that was, people’s perception is that it’s being treated for a longer time.”

For those who want no part of drinking recycled wastewater, McPhedran says the reality is, “when our wastewater is treated, the water entering into the river is cleaner than the water that comes into the drinking water plant from the very beginning.”

McPhedran says the cost of reusing wastewater is a big issue, so his team is trying to use local products for the treatment process.

“For storm water, we could use biochar, which is waste biomasses coming from the agriculture industry that they aren’t using. We could create biochars that help absorb some of the metals from stormwater, allowing it to be reused.”

He hopes to hold workshops with stakeholders across the city and province to discuss potential reuses for wastewater, as well as guidelines for the reuse, as well.