Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Africa Water, Sanitation Jan -Feb 2014 Vol.10 No1 - Page 16

New Products Bill Gates Drinks Poop Water, Serves Notice By Kevin Westerling the world’s most water-challenged and poor regions — in India and Africa, for example — it sounds a lot like the “Utility of the Future” endorsed by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) here in the U.S. Bill Gates’ involvement has inspired scads of mainstream media coverage and thousands of “shares” on social media from those both in and outside the water/ wastewater industry. I’m swept up in the sharing as well — the enthusiasm is well-deserved. Wastewater contains energy that can be harnessed and utilized C redit where it’s due: I didn’t develop the information I’m sharing — but it’s too good to merely retweet or “like.” My enthusiasm stems from one of the world’s most famous, influential, and capable people getting fully behind sustainable wastewater treatment and direct potable reuse, bringing widespread attention to typically underappreciated water issues. That person is Bill Gates, most notably the multibillionaire co-founder of Microsoft, but also (more to the point for this story) co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to combat extreme poverty. Much of the Foundation’s recent focus has been on clean water availability and sanitation, but has only tangentially related to what we report at Water Online … until now. Through social media I was tipped off to the excellent Wired article about the OmniProcessor from Janicki Bioenergy. The system, supported and coming into prominence through Gates’ efforts, converts sewage sludge into energy and drinking water at low cost ($1.5 million per plant, serving ~100,000 people). Gates was on-site to sample the water straight from the machine, was shown in the video and related in Gates’ own blog, The Gates Notes. According to Peter Janicki, inventor of the OmniProcessor, the end product compares favorably to the store-bought bottled water he tested it against. “Our water meets or exceeds the standards of every one of those,” quotes Wired. Furthermore, the sludge creates enough energy to power the system, and even to sell electricity back to the grid. The operator can also get paid for accepting the raw sludge, then paid again for selling the processed sludge (aka biosolids) as a fertilizer. While the OmniProcessor is hoped to resolve issues in 16 Africa Water, Sanitation & Hygiene • January - February 2015 Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program Wastewater contains energy in the form of potential energy, thermal energy and chemically bound energy, all of which can be harnessed and utilized. In the USA, there are 104 wastewater treatment plants using biogas to produce a total of 190 MW capacity. Wastewater is increasingly recognized as potential source of energy: in several countries, water supply companies are working towards becoming energy-neutral. It is estimated that more than 80% of used water worldwide -and up to 90% in developing countries- is neither collected nor treated, threatening human and environmental health. Energy is required for pumping and treating water Energy is required for two components of water provision: pumping and treatment (before and after use). Electricity costs are estimated at 5% to 30% of the total operating cost of water and wastewater utilities, but in some developing countries such as India and Bangladesh, it is as high as 40% of the total operating cost. World Water Development Report 2014